Oecologia

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 526–536

Comparative physiology and demography of three Neotropical forest shrubs: alternative shade-adaptive character syndromes

  • Stephen S. Mulkey
  • S. Joseph Wright
  • Alan P. Smith
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00320510

Cite this article as:
Mulkey, S.S., Wright, S.J. & Smith, A.P. Oecologia (1993) 96: 526. doi:10.1007/BF00320510

Abstract

A suite of functionally-related characters and demography of three species of Neotropical shadeadapted understory shrubs (Psychotria, Rubiaceae) were studied in the field over five years. Plants were growing in large-scale irrigated and control treatments in gaps and shade in old-growth moist forest at Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Irrigation demonstrated that dry-season drought limited stomatal conductance, light saturated photosynthesis, and leaf longevity in all three species. Drought increased mortality of P. furcata. In contrast, irrigation did not affect measures of photosynthetic capacity determined with an oxygen electrode or from photosynthesis-CO2 response curves in the field. Drought stress limited field photosynthesis and leaf and plant survivorship without affecting photosynthetic capacity during late dry season. Leaves grown in high light in naturally occurring treefall gaps had higher photosynthetic capacity, dark respiration and mass per unit area than leaves grown in the shaded understory. P. furcata had the lowest acclimation to high light for all of these characters, and plant mortality was greater in gaps than in shaded understory for this species. The higher photosynthetic capacity of gap-grown leaves was also apparent when photosynthetic capacity was calculated on a leaf mass basis. Acclimation to high light involved repackaging (higher mass per unit leaf area) as well as higher photosynthetic capacity per unit leaf mass in these species. The three species showed two distinct syndromes of functionally-related adaptations to low light. P. limonensis and P. marginata had high leaf longevity (∼3 years), high plant survivorship, low leaf nitrogen content, and high leaf mass per unit area. In contrast, P. furcata had low leaf survivorship (∼1 year), high plant mortality (77–96% in 39 months), low leaf mass per unit area, high leaf nitrogen content, and the highest leaf area to total plant mass; the lowest levels of shelf shading, dark respiration and light compensation; and the highest stem diameter growth rates. This suite of characters may permit higher whole-plant carbon gain and high leaf and population turnover in P. furcata. Growth in deep shade can be accomplished through alternative character syndromes, and leaf longevity may not be correlated with photosynthetic capacity in shade adapted plants.

Key words

Leaf longevity Phenology Photosynthetic capacity Rubiaceae Survivorship 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen S. Mulkey
    • 1
  • S. Joseph Wright
    • 2
  • Alan P. Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, APDOBalboaRepublic of Panama

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