The photochemical reflectance index: an optical indicator of photosynthetic radiation use efficiency across species, functional types, and nutrient levels
- Cite this article as:
- Gamon, J., Serrano, L. & Surfus, J. Oecologia (1997) 112: 492. doi:10.1007/s004420050337
The photochemical reflectance index (PRI), derived from narrow-band reflectance at 531 and 570 nm, was explored as an indicator of photosynthetic radiation use efficiency for 20 species representing three functional types: annual, deciduous perennial, and evergreen perennial. Across species, top-canopy leaves in full sun at midday exhibited a strong correlation between PRI and ΔF/Fm′, a fluorescence-based index of photosystem II (PSII) photochemical efficiency. PRI was also significantly correlated with both net CO2 uptake and radiation use efficiency measured by gas exchange. When species were examined by functional type, evergreens exhibited significantly reduced midday photosynthetic rates relative to annual and deciduous species. This midday reduction was associated with reduced radiation use efficiency, detectable as reduced net CO2 uptake, PRI, and ΔF/Fm′ values, and increased levels of the photoprotective xanthophyll cycle pigment zeaxanthin. For each functional type, nutrient deficiency led to reductions in both PRI and ΔF/Fm′ relative to fertilized controls. Laboratory experiments exposing leaves to diurnal courses of radiation and simulated midday stomatal closure demonstrated that PRI changed rapidly with both irradiance and leaf physiological state. In these studies, PRI was closely correlated with both ΔF/Fm' and radiation use efficiency determined from gas exchange at all but the lowest light levels. Examination of the difference spectra upon exposure to increasing light levels revealed that the 531 nm Δ reflectance signal was composed of two spectral components. At low irradiance, this signal was dominated by a 545-nm component, which was not closely related to radiation use efficiency. At progressively higher light levels above 100 μmol m−2 s−1, the 531-nm signal was increasingly dominated by a 526-nm component, which was correlated with light use efficiency and with the conversion of the xanthophyll pigment violaxanthin to antheraxanthin and zeaxanthin. Further consideration of the two components composing the 531-nm signal could lead to an index of photosynthetic function applicable over a wide range of illumination. The results of this study support the use of PRI as an interspecific index of photosynthetic radiation use efficiency for leaves and canopies in full sun, but not across wide ranges in illumination from deep shade to full sun. The discovery of a consistent relationship between PRI and photosynthetic radiation use efficiency for top-canopy leaves across species, functional types, and nutrient treatments suggests that relative photosynthetic rates could be derived with the “view from above” provided by remote reflectance measurements if issues of canopy and stand structure can be resolved.