, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 133-138

Leaf Gas Exchange and Water Relations in Polylepis tarapacana at Extreme Altitudes in the Bolivian Andes

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Abstract

Stress-induced restrictions to carbon balance, growth, and reproduction are the causes of tree-line formation at a global scale. We studied gas exchange and water relations of Polylepis tarapacana in the field, considering the possible effects of water stress limitations imposed on net photosynthetic rate (P N). Daily courses of microclimatic variables, gas exchange, and leaf water potential were measured in both dry-cold and wet-warm seasons at an altitude of 4 300 m. Marked differences in environmental conditions between seasons resulted in differences for the dry-cold and wet-warm seasons in mean leaf water potentials (−1.67 and −1.02 MPa, respectively) and mean leaf conductances (33.5 and 58.9 mmol m−2 s−1, respectively), while differences in mean P N (2.5 and 2.8 μmol m−2 s−1, respectively) were not as evident. This may be related to limitations imposed by water deficit and lower photon flux densities during dry and wet seasons, respectively. Hence P. tarapacana has coupled its gas exchange characteristics to the extreme daily and seasonal variations in temperature and water availability of high elevations.