, 155:665 | Cite as

Costs and benefits of photosynthetic light acclimation by tree seedlings in response to gap formation

  • R. Oguchi
  • K. Hikosaka
  • T. Hiura
  • T. Hirose
Physiological Ecology - Original Paper


Some shade leaves increase their photosynthetic capacity (P max) when exposed to a higher irradiance. The increase in P max is associated with an increase in chloroplast size or number. To accommodate those chloroplasts, plants need to make thick leaves in advance. We studied the cost and benefit of photosynthetic acclimation in mature leaves of a tree species, Kalopanax pictus Nakai, in a cool-temperate deciduous forest. Costs were evaluated as the additional investment in biomass required to make thick leaves, while the benefit was evaluated as an increase in photosynthetic carbon gain. We created gaps by felling canopy trees and examined the photosynthetic responses of mature leaves of the understorey seedlings. In the shade, leaves of K. pictus had vacant spaces that were not filled by chloroplasts in the mesophyll cells facing the intercellular space. When those leaves were exposed to higher irradiance after gap formation, the area of the mesophyll surface covered by chloroplasts increased by 17% and P max by 27%. This increase in P max led to an 11% increase in daily carbon gain, which was greater than the amount of biomass additionally invested to construct thicker leaves. We conclude that the capacity of a plant to acclimate to light (photosynthetic acclimation) would contribute to rapid growth in response to gap formation.


Acclimation potential Forest regeneration Gap dynamics Leaf anatomy Photosynthetic capacity 



CO2 concentration external to leaf (μmol mol−1)


CO2 concentration in the intercellular space (μmol mol−1)


Vapor pressure deficit (kPa)


Stomatal conductance to CO2 (mol m−2 s−1)


Incident photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD, μmol m−2 s−1)


Rate of electron transport (μmol m−2 s−1)


Maximum rate of J (μmol m−2 s−1)


Michaelis constant for CO2 (μmol mol−1)


Michaelis constant for O2 (mmol mol−1)


Photosynthesis rate (μmol m−2 s−1)


Ribulose biphosphate (RuBP)-limited rate of photosynthesis (μmol m−2 s−1)


Light-saturated rate of photosynthesis per unit leaf area (μmol m−2 s−1)


RuBP-saturated rate of photosynthesis (μmol m−2 s−1)


Day respiration rate (μmol m−2 s−1)


Dark respiration rate (μmol m−2 s−1)


Area of chloroplast surface facing the intercellular space per unit leaf area (m2 m−2)


Surface area of mesophyll cells facing the intercellular space per unit leaf area, mesophyll surface area (m2 m−2)


Air temperature (oC)


Leaf temperature (oC)


Maximum rate of RuBP carboxylation (μmol m−2 s−1)


Convexity of the light response curve of J (no dimension)


CO2 compensation point in the absence of day respiration (μmol mol−1)


Initial slope of the light-response curve of J (mol mol−1)



We thank the staff members at Tomakomai Experimental Forest for their technical support and the experimental set-up, T. Koike and T. Kohyama for generous offer of instruments and S. Kitaoka, S. Kosuge, Y. Onoda and E. Nabeshima for experimental supports, advice and discussion. This work was financially supported in part by Grants-in-aid of the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and by JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists. We declare that the experiments comply with the current laws of Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Life SciencesTohoku UniversityAoba, SendaiJapan
  2. 2.Plant Science, Biological Science, Graduate School of ScienceThe University of TokyoBunkyo-ku, TokyoJapan
  3. 3.Tomakomai Research Station, Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversityTomakomaiJapan

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