, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 289–298 | Cite as

Leaf dynamics, self-shading and carbon gain in seedlings of a tropical pioneer tree

  • D. D. Ackerly
  • F. A. Bazzaz
Original Paper


We examined leaf dynamics and leaf age gradients of photosynthetic capacity and nitrogen concentration in seedlings of the tropical pioneer tree, Heliocarpus appendiculatus, grown in a factorial design under controlled conditions with two levels each of nutrients, ambient light (light levels incident above the canopy), and self-shading (the gradient of light levels from upper to lower leaves on the shoot). Correlations among these parameters were examined in order to determine the influence of self-shading, and the regulation of standing leaf numbers, on leaf longevity and its association with leaf photosynthetic capacity. Leaf longevity and the number of leaves on the main shoot were both reduced in high light, while in the low light environment, they were reduced in the steeper self-shading gradient. In high nutrients, leaf longevity was reduced whereas leaf number increased. Leaf initiation rates were higher in the high nutrient treatment but were not influenced by either light treatment. Maximum-light saturated photosynthetic rate, on an area basis, was greater in the high light and nutrient treatments, while the decline in photosynthetic capacity in realtion to leaf position on the shoot was more rapid in high light and in low nutrients. Leaf longevity was negatively correlated among treatments with initial photosynthetic capacity. The leaf position at which photosynthetic capacity was predicted to reach zero was positively correlated with the number of leaves on the shoot, supporting the hypothesis that leaf numbers are regulated by patterns of self-shading. The negative association of longevity and initial photosynthetic capacity apparently arises from different associations among gradients of photosynthetic capacity, leaf numbers and leaf initiation rates in relation to light and nutrient availability. The simultaneous consideration of age and position of leaves illuminates the role of self-shading as an important factor influencing leaf senescence and canopy structure and dynamics.

Key words

Leaf longevity Canopy structure Nitrogen allocation Self-shading Photosynthesis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. D. Ackerly
    • 1
  • F. A. Bazzaz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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