Best Practices for Measuring Photosynthesis at Multiple Scales

  • Steven K. Rice
  • J. Hans C. Cornelissen
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 37)


Studies of bryophyte photosynthetic performance have generally adapted techniques developed for use in vascular plants and relied on underlying vascular plant functional models as guides. Within this context, bryophytes present intellectual and methodological challenges, but also opportunities relative to their vascular plant counterparts. For example, although the leaf is clearly a functional unit for vascular plants, the comparable bryophyte structure may or may not serve a similar purpose. Instead, shoot systems and their organization into canopies are often employed as the functional equivalent. Unfortunately, due to issues of scale and alternative functional demands on bryophyte shoots like external transport and nutrient uptake, neither the methodologies nor the underlying models that lead to an integrated understanding of photosynthesis in vascular plants apply well to bryophytes. This chapter will consider the appropriate functional units for studies of bryophyte photosynthesis and relate it to the growth form and life form literature. Methods to characterize photosynthetic “leaf” area, water content, and canopy structure will be evaluated relative to their use in characterizing rates of photosynthesis. In addition, various methods are used to study photosynthetic function and these will be considered in light of their appropriate spatial and temporal domains.


Vascular Plant Relative Water Content Plant Water Status Bryophyte Species Shoot System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Leaf area index;


Maximum rate of net photosynthesis;


Quantum yield of photosystem II;


Shoot area index;


Shoot silhouette to needle leaf area ratio



The authors thank Heinjo During, Nadia Soudzilovskaia, Tanya Elumeeva and Simone Lang for discussions and collaboration and acknowledge support of NWO (Dutch Science Foundation) through grants ALW 852.00.070 and N-047.018.003 to HCC, National Science Foundation grant 0922883 to SKR and to Union College for sabbatical leave for SKR to complete this project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA
  2. 2.Systems Ecology, Department of Ecological ScienceVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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