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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 35(8)

Relating leaf photosynthetic rate to whole-plant growth: drought and shade effects on seedlings of four Quercus species

José L. Quero A B E F, Rafael Villar B, Teodoro Marañón C, Regino Zamora A, Dolores Vega B, Lawren Sack D

A Grupo de Ecología Terrestre, Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain.
B Área de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Córdoba, 14071 Cordoba, Spain.
C Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología, CSIC, PO Box 1052, 41080 Seville, Spain.
D Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, 621 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA.
E Present address: Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
F Corresponding author. Email: jose.queroperez@wur.nl
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Understanding the impacts of combined resource supplies on seedlings is critical to enable prediction of establishment growth, and forest dynamics. We investigated the effects of irradiance and water treatments on absolute growth, and relative growth rate (RGR) and its components, for seedlings of four Quercus species differing in leaf habit and with a wide variation in seed mass. Plants were grown for 6.5 months at three levels of irradiance (100, 27, and 3% daylight), and treated during the last 2.5 months with two watering treatments (frequent watering v. suspended watering). Both shade and drought reduced seedling growth rates, with a significant interaction: under full irradiance the drought treatment had a stronger impact on RGR and final biomass than under deep shade. For three species, seed mass was positively related to absolute growth, with stronger correlations at lower irradiance. The evergreen species grew faster than the deciduous species, though leaf habit accounted for a minor part of the interspecific variation in absolute growth. Seedling biomass was determined positively either by RGR or seed mass; RGR was positively linked with net assimilation rate (NAR) and leaf mass fraction (LMF), and seed mass was negatively linked with RGR and LMF, but positively linked with NAR. Seedling RGR was not correlated with light-saturated net photosynthetic rate, but was strongly correlated with the net carbon balance estimated, from photosynthetic light-response curves, considering daily variation in irradiance. These findings suggest an approach to applying short-term physiological measurements to predict the RGR and absolute growth rate of seedlings in a wide range of combinations of irradiance and water supplies.

Keywords: biomass allocation, carbon balance, growth analysis, leaf habit, Mediterranean oak, relative growth rate, seed mass, specific leaf area.

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