Clouds homogenize shoot temperatures, transpiration, and photosynthesis within crowns of Abies fraseri (Pursh.) Poiret
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Multiple studies have examined the effects of clouds on shoot and canopy-level microclimate and physiological processes; none have yet done so on the scale of individual plant crowns. We compared incident photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), leaf temperatures, chlorophyll fluorescence, and photosynthetic gas exchange of shoots in three different spatial locations of Abies fraseri crowns on sunny (clear to partly cloudy) versus overcast days. The field site was a Fraser fir farm (1038 m elevation) in the Appalachian mountains, USA. Ten saplings of the same age class were marked and revisited for all measurements. Sunny conditions corresponded with 5–10× greater sunlight incidence on south-facing outer shoots compared to south-facing inner and north-facing outer shoots, which were shaded and received only indirect (diffuse) sunlight. Differences in spatial distribution of irradiance were mirrored in differences in shoot temperatures, photosynthesis, and transpiration, which were all greater in south-facing outer shoots compared to more shaded crown locations. In contrast, overcast conditions corresponded with more homogeneous sunlight distribution between north and south-facing outer shoots, and similar shoot temperatures, chlorophyll fluorescence (ΦPSII), photosynthesis, and transpiration; these effects were observed in south-facing inner shoots as well, but to a lesser extent. There was no significant difference in conductance between different crown locations on sunny or overcast days, indicating spatial differences in transpiration under sunny conditions were likely driven by leaf temperature differences. We conclude that clouds can affect spatial distribution of sunlight and associated physiological parameters not only within forest communities, but within individual crowns as well.
KeywordsCarbon gain Climate change Diffuse light Photoinhibition Treeline
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (IOS Grant No. 1122064). We also thank Mr. Thad Taylor for allowing us to work in his tree farm, and Dr. Howard Neufeld for providing weather station data and assistance locating a field site.
Author contributions statement
NMH conceived and designed the experiments. JMH, HDC, NMB, and NMH performed experiments. JMH and NMH analyzed data and wrote manuscript. HDC and NMB provided editorial advice on the manuscript.
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