, Volume 179, Issue 1, pp 43-51

Gap size effects on photoinhibition in understorey saplings in tropical rainforest

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Abstract

The sudden increase in irradiance after canopy disturbance in primary forest together with the accompanying increase in leaf temperatures is known to cause photoinhibition in shade acclimated foliage of understorey plants. We hypothesized that there is species specific variation among understorey saplings in the magnitude of photoinhibition in response to gap creation, which is related to their requirement for overstorey disturbance. Eleven more or less circular gaps were created varying in size from 60 up to 1459 m2. Photoinhibition was assessed by determining predawn and midday F v/F m using chlorophyll fluorescence at two occasions during the first 3 weeks after creation of the gaps. The light environment was assessed using hemispherical photography. Five species that occurred in sufficient numbers in the understorey after gap creation were measured. They all showed an increase of photoinhibition with increasing gap size. Variation in exposure to direct sunlight within gaps contributed also to variation in photoinhibition. Dynamic photoinhibition, the overnight increase in F v/F m, was about 20% of total photoinhibition as measured at midday. The species responded quantitatively different. Oxandra asbeckii was most sensitive as evident from a decrease of predawn F v/F m from 0.79 in the understorey of undisturbed forest to 0.70 in the smallest and further to 0.41 in the largest gaps. Catostemma fragrans, the least sensitive species showed hardly any photoinhibition in the smallest gaps and less in the largest ones, whereas Lecythis concertiflora, Licania heteromorpha, and Chlorocardium rodiei had intermediate responses. Species rank order in sensitivity to photoinhibition was maintained across the whole range of gap sizes. The relationship between sensitivity to photoinhibition and species-specific gap size preference for regeneration is discussed.