Original Papers


, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 348-355

First online:

Leaf age and seasonal effects on light, water, and nitrogen use efficiency in a California shrub

  • C. FieldAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
  • , H. A. MooneyAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

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Photosynthetic capacity, leaf nitrogen content, and stomatal conductance decreased with increasing leaf age in the chaparral shrub, Lepechinia calycina, growing in its natural habitat. Efficiency of resource use for three resources that potentially limit photosynthesis did not, however, decrease with increasing leaf age. Light-use efficiency, given by the quantum yield of photosynthesis at low light intensities, was unaffected by leaf aging but decreased slightly through the winter and spring growing season. Water-use efficiency, the ratio of photosynthesis to transpiration at light saturation and with a constant water vapor concentration gradient, was not affected by leaf aging or seasonal change. Nitrogen-use efficiency, the ratio of photosynthesis at light saturation to leaf nitrogen content did not change with leaf age but was lower in the leaves with the highest specific weights. This ensemble of leaf-age effects is consistent with the hypothesis that aging represents resource redistribution and not uncontrolled deterioration.