, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 110–117

The effect of light quantity and quality during development on the photosynthetic characteristics of six Australian rainforest tree species

  • M. H. Turnbull
Original Papers


Seedlings of six subtropical rainforest tree species representing early (Omalanthus populifolius, Solanum aviculare), middle (Duboisia myoporoides, Euodia micrococca) and late (Acmena ingens, Argyrodendron actinophyllum) successional stages in forest development were grown in a glasshouse, under four levels of neutral shade (60%, 15%, 5%, 1% of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) in incident sunlight) and three levels of selectively filtered shade (producing 15%, 5%, 1% of PAR). This design served to analyse the interactions between reduced photon flux density (PFD) and reduced red/far-red (R/FR) ratio in their effects on selected photosynthetic characteristics of each species. The light-saturated rate of photosynthesis was significantly influenced by growth irradiance in five of the six species, with all of these showing a non-linear decrease in maximum assimilation rate from 60% down to 1% PAR. The degree of acclimation to this range was not clearly related to the successional status of the species. Dark respiration was more sensitive to growth irradiance in the early- and mid-stage species than in the late-stage species. Although levels of dark respiration were clearly greater in leaves of early- and mid-stage species from the highest light levels, differences between successional groups were negligible at 1% PAR. Growth in filtered shade, typical of that beneath a closed canopy, resulted in lower photosynthetic capacities and quantum yields in those species which did respond. Although dark respiration rates were more sensitive to filtered shade in the early-stage than in the late-stage species, there was no evidence from other gas exchange characteristics to suggest that overall sensitivity to light quality (as characterised by the R/FR ratio) is greater in early successional-stage species.

Key words

Rainforest Photosynthesis Dark respiration Growth irradiance R/FR ratio 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson JM (1986) Photoregulation of the composition, function, and structure of thylakoid membranes. Ann Rev Plant Physiol 37:93–136Google Scholar
  2. Baker NR, McKiernan M (1988) Modifications to the photosynthetic apparatus of higher plants in response to changes in the light environment. Biol J Linn Soc 34:193–203Google Scholar
  3. Ballare CL, Scopel AL, Sanchez RA (1990) Far-red radiation from adjacent leaves: An early signal of competition in plant canopies. Science 247:329–332Google Scholar
  4. Bazzaz FA (1979) The physiological ecology of plant succession. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 10:351–371Google Scholar
  5. Bazzaz FA, Pickett STA (1980) Physiological ecology of tropical succession: A comparative review. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 11:287–310Google Scholar
  6. Bazzaz FA, Carlson RW (1982) Photosynthetic acclimation to variability in the light environment of early and late successional plants. Oecologia 54:313–316Google Scholar
  7. Bjorkman O (1981) Responses to different quantum flux densities. In: Lange OL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, Ziegler H (eds) Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology, Vol 12A. Plant Physiological Ecology I. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 57–107Google Scholar
  8. Bjorkman O, Ludlow MM (1972) Characterization of the light climate on the floor of a Queensland rainforest. Carnegie Inst Washington Yearbook 71:85–94Google Scholar
  9. Bjorkman O, Boardman NK, Anderson JM, Thorne SW, Goodchild DJ, Pyliotis NA (1972a) Effect of light intensity during growth of Atriplex patula on the capacity of photosynthetic reactions, chloroplast components and structure. Carnegie Inst Washington Yearbook 71:115–135Google Scholar
  10. Bjorkman O, Ludlow MM, Morrow PA (1972b) Photosynthetic performance of two rainforest species in their native habitat and analysis of their gas exchange. Carnegie Inst Washington Yearbook 71:94–102Google Scholar
  11. Boardman NK (1977) Comparative photosynthesis of sun and shade plants. Ann Rev Plant Physiol 28:355–377Google Scholar
  12. Caemmerer S von, Farquhar GD (1981) Some relationships between the biochemistry of photosynthesis and the gas exchange of leaves. Planta 153:376–387Google Scholar
  13. Chazdon RL, Fetcher N (1984) Photosynthetic light environments in a lowland tropical rain forest in Costa Rica. J Ecol 72:553–564Google Scholar
  14. Corre WJ (1983a) Growth and morphogenesis of sun and shade plants I. The influence of light intensity. Acta Bot Neerl 32:49–62Google Scholar
  15. Corre WJ (1983b) Growth and morphogenesis of sun and shade plants II. The influence of light quality. Acta Bot Neerl 32:185–202Google Scholar
  16. Fetcher N, Strain BR, Oberbauer SF (1983) Effects of light regime on the growth, leaf morphology, and water relations of seedlings of two species of tropical trees. Oecologia 58:314–319Google Scholar
  17. Holmes MG (1984) Light sources. In: Smith H, Holmes MG (eds) Techniques in Photomorphogenesis. Academic Press, London, pp 43–79Google Scholar
  18. Holmes MG, Smith H (1977) The function of phytochrome in the natural environment — II. The influence of vegetation canopies on the spectral energy distribution of natural daylight. Photochem Photobiol 25:539–545Google Scholar
  19. Hopkins MS (1975) Species patterns and diversity in the subtropical rainforest. Ph.D. thesis, Botany Department, The University of QueenslandGoogle Scholar
  20. Kwesiga F, Grace J (1986) The role of the red/far-red ratio in the response of tropical tree seedlings to shade. Ann Bot 57:283–290Google Scholar
  21. Kwesiga FR, Grace J, Sandford AP (1986) Some photosynthetic characteristics of tropical timber trees as affected by the light regime during growth. Ann Bot 58:23–32Google Scholar
  22. Langenheim JH, Osmond CB, Brooks A, Ferrar PJ (1984) Photosynthetic responses to light in seedlings of selected Amazonian and Australian rainforest tree species. Oecologia 63:215–224Google Scholar
  23. Lee DW, Graham R (1986) Leaf optical properties of rainforest sun and extreme shade plants. Am J Bot 73:1100–1108Google Scholar
  24. Lee DW, Bone RA, Tarsis SL, Storch D (1990) Correlates of leaf optical properties in tropical forest sun and extreme-shade plants. Am J Bot 77:370–380Google Scholar
  25. Melick DR (1990) Regenerative succession of Tristaniopsis laurina and Acmena smithii in riparian warm temperate rainforest in Victoria, in relation to light and nutrient regimes. Aust J Bot 38:111–120Google Scholar
  26. Mitchell PL, Woodward FI (1988) Responses of three woodland herbs to reduced photosynthetically active radiation and low red to far-red ratio in shade. J Ecol 76:807–825Google Scholar
  27. Mooney HA, Bjorkman O, Hall AE, Medina E, Tomlinson PB (1980) The study of the physiological ecology of tropical plants — current status and needs. Bioscience 30:22–26Google Scholar
  28. Morgan DC, Smith H (1981) Control of development in Chenopodium album L. by shadelight: The effect of light quantity (total fluence rate) and light quality (red: far-red ratio). New Phytol 88:239–248Google Scholar
  29. Oberbauer SF, Strain BR (1984) Photosynthesis and successional status of Costa Rican rain forest trees. Photosynthesis Research 5:227–232Google Scholar
  30. Oberbauer SF, Strain BR (1985) Effects of light regime on the growth and physiology of Pentaclethra macroloba (Mimosaceae) in Costa Rica. J Trop Ecol 1:303–320Google Scholar
  31. Oberbauer SF, Strain BR (1986) Effects of canopy position and irradiance on the leaf physiology and morphology of Pentaclethra macroloba (Mimosaceae). Am J Bot 73:409–416Google Scholar
  32. Olsen MF (1990) Aspects of the ecology and physiology of rainforest systems following large scale natural disturbance. Ph.D. thesis, The University of QueenslandGoogle Scholar
  33. Osmond CB (1983) Interactions between irradiance, nitrogen nutrition, and water stress in the sun-shade responses of Solanum dulcamara. Oecologia 57:316–321Google Scholar
  34. Pearcy RW (1983) The light environment and growth of C3 and C4 tree species in the understorey of a Hawaiian forest. Oecologia 58:19–25Google Scholar
  35. Pearcy RW (1987) Photosynthetic gas exchange responses of Australian tropical forest trees in canopy, gap and understorey micro-environments. Funct Ecol 1:169–178Google Scholar
  36. Pearcy RW, Calkin HW (1983) Carbon dioxide exchange of C3 and C4 tree species in the understorey of a Hawaiian forest. Oecologia 58:26–32Google Scholar
  37. Smith H (1983) The natural radiation environment: limitations on the biology of photoreceptors. Phytochrome as a case study. In: Cosens D, Vince-Prue D (eds) The Biology of Photoreceptors. SEB Symposium. Society for Experimental Biology, UKGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith H, Casal JJ, Jackson GM (1990) Reflection signals and the perception by phytochrome of the proximity of neighbouring vegetation. Plant, Cell and Environment 13:73–78Google Scholar
  39. Smith JHC, Benitez A (1955) Chlorophylls: Analysis in plant materials. In: Paech K, Tracey MV (eds) Modern Methods of Plant Analysis, vol IV. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Göttingen Heidelberg, pp 142–196Google Scholar
  40. Underwood AJ (1981) Techniques of analysis of variance in experimental marine biology and ecology. Oceanogr Mar Biol Ann Rev 19:513–605Google Scholar
  41. Vazquez-Yanez C, Smith H (1982) Phytochrome control of seed germination in the tropical rain forest pioneer trees Cecropia obtusifolia and Piper auritum and its ecological significance. New Phytol 92:477–485Google Scholar
  42. Walters MB, Field CB (1987) Photosynthetic light acclimation in two rainforest Piper species with different ecological amplitudes. Oecologia 72:449–456Google Scholar
  43. Yates DJ (1989) Shade factors of a range of shadecloth materials. Acta Hort 257:201–217Google Scholar
  44. Yates DJ, Unwin GL, Doley D (1988) Rainforest environment and physiology. Proc Ecol Soc Aust 15:31–37Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. H. Turnbull
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations