Light interception in species with different functional groups coexisting in moorland plant communities

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Competition for light is one of the most essential mechanisms affecting species composition. It has been suggested that similar light acquisition efficiency (Φmass, absorbed photon flux per unit aboveground mass) may contribute to species coexistence in multi-species communities. On the other hand, it is known that traits related with light acquisition vary among functional groups. We studied whether Φmass was similar among species with different functional groups coexisting in moorland communities. We conducted stratified clipping in midsummer when the stand biomass reached a maximum. Light partitioning among species was estimated using a model accounting for both direct and diffuse light. Evergreen species were found to have a significantly lower Φmass than deciduous species, which resulted from their lower absorbed photon flux per unit leaf area and lower specific leaf area. Shrubs had a smaller leaf mass fraction, but their Φmass was not lower than that of herbs because they had a higher leaf position due to the presence of wintering stems. Species with vertical leaves had a higher Φmass than those with horizontal leaves despite vertical leaves being a decided disadvantage in terms of light absorption. This higher Φmass was achieved by a greater leaf height in species with vertical leaves. Our results clearly demonstrate that light acquisition efficiency was different among the functional groups. However, the trend observed is not necessarily the same as that expected based on prior knowledge, suggesting that disadvantages in some traits for light acquisition efficiency are partly compensated for by other traits.

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We thank K. Yonekura for advice about species identification and N. Osada, T. T. Makino, K. Ishikawa, E. Okamoto, H. Ono, Y, Suzuki, K. Miyagi, M. Oguro, S. Kato, Y. Matsumoto and K. Namekata for technical assistance. The study was conducted with the permission of the Ministry of the Environment, Aomori Prefecture Government, Aomori City, and the landowner of Tashiro farm. This work was carried out under a JSPS research fellowship awarded to CK, and supported by KAKENHI, the Global Environment Research Fund (F-052 and F-092) by the Ministry of the Environment, Japan, and the Global COE Program j03 (Ecosystem management adapting to global change) by the MEXT to KH.

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Correspondence to Chiho Kamiyama.

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Communicated by Robert Pearcy.

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Kamiyama, C., Oikawa, S., Kubo, T. et al. Light interception in species with different functional groups coexisting in moorland plant communities. Oecologia 164, 591–599 (2010) doi:10.1007/s00442-010-1674-5

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  • Canopy structure
  • Leaf angle
  • Life form
  • Light partitioning
  • Biomass allocation