, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 431-437

Age-dependent bark photosynthesis of aspen twigs

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The photosynthetic performance of trembling aspen (Populus tremula L.) twigs and leaves was studied in relation to selected structural features of aspen bark. PFD transmittance of intact periderm was reduced by about 90% in current-year twigs through peridermal thickening. However, because of drastic changes within the bark microstructure, PFD transmittance increased in 1-year-old twig segments up to 26% of the incident PFD. On a unit surface area basis, the chlorophyll content of young twigs (425 mg Chl m–2) almost reached that of leaves (460 mg Chl m–2). The chlorophyll content of aspen bark chlorenchyma was clearly age-dependent, even increasing in current-year twigs with advancing internodal age. The low bark chlorophyll a/b ratios (about 2.6 compared with 3.9 in leaves) indicate that bark chloroplasts are shade-adapted. Positive net photosynthesis was not found in aspen twigs, but apparent respiration was distinctly reduced in the light due to light-driven carbon refixation (bark photosynthesis) within the chlorenchymal tissues. Under constant microclimatic conditions, dark respiration rates were strongly correlated with stem-internal CO2 refixation. In accordance with increasing dark respiration rates, the efficiency of this carbon recycling was generally greater in the metabolically more active, younger twig segments than in older segments; carbon refixation rates reached up to 80% of dark respiration values. At least in young twigs and branches and thus in the light-exposed outer parts of tree crowns, respiratory CO2 losses by the tree skeleton could efficiently be reduced. Refixation of carbon dioxide may be of great importance for carbon budgets in the environmentally controlled or pathogen-induced leafless states of deciduous aspen trees.

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