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Ecophysiology of exotic and native shrubs in Southern Wisconsin

I. Relationship of leaf characteristics, resource availability, and phenology to seasonal patterns of carbon gain


We compared seasonal trends in photosynthesis of two naturalized exotic shrubs (Rhamnus cathartica and Lonicera X bella) and two native shrubs (Cornus racemosa and Prunus serotina) in open and understory habitats in southern Wisconsin. We examined the relationships between resource availability and leaf photosynthetic performance in these four species. All four species had similar relationships between leaf nitrogen (N) content and photosynthetic rate, but the species differed in absolute leaf N content and therefore in photosynthetic rates. Maximum daily photosynthetic rates of all species were significantly correlated with leaf N content in the open habitat, but not in the understory, where low light availability was the major limitation to photosynthesis. Extended leaf longevity was important in the forest understory because it allowed shrubs to take advantage of high light availability at times when the overstory canopy was leafless. Early leaf emergence was more important than late senescence: from 27% to 35% of the annual carbon gain of P. serotina, R. cathartica, and L. X bella occurred prior to leaf emergence of C. racemosa, the species with the shortest leaf life span. Extended leaf longevity of exotic shrubs may help explain their persistence in the understory habitat, but it contributed relatively less to their annual carbon gain in the open habitat.

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Correspondence to Robin A. Harrington.

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Harrington, R.A., Brown, B.J. & Reich, P.B. Ecophysiology of exotic and native shrubs in Southern Wisconsin. Oecologia 80, 356–367 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00379037

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Key words

  • Carbon gain
  • Exotic shrubs
  • Leaf longevity
  • Photosynthesis
  • Understory