Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Photosynthetic Response to Light and Nutrients in Sun-Tolerant and Shade-Tolerant Rainforest Trees. I. Growth, Leaf Anatomy and Nutrient Content.

WA Thompson, PE Kriedemann and IE Craig

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 19(1) 1 - 18
Published: 1992


Seedling trees of Argyrodendron sp., A. trifoliolaturn, Flindersia brayleyana and Toona australis were grown for c. 180 days under one of three light regimes with either of two nutrient levels (6 treatments in all). Light regimes spanned the range of environmental conditions which these species would normally experience in northern Queensland rainforest: deep shade (1.3 mol quanta m-2 day-1, equivalent to forest floor), moderate light (5.6 mol quanta m-2 day-1, comparable to midcanopy), and strong light (23 mol quanta m-2 day-1, matching daily irradiance of exposed crowns).

Long-term shade tolerance in Argyrodendron sp. and A. trifoliolaturn was associated with limited responses in growth and leaf anatomy to low light and nutrients. Starch accumulation in leaves under all treatments, and especially low nutrients, implied that supply of photoassimilate exceeded demand. Such a conservative carbon economy, plus the accumulation of stem P reserves, even in a weak light environment, is consistent with a protracted existence as part of a forest floor community. By contrast, shade-intolerant Toona is an early successional species and lacks such adaptive features. Instead, light and nutrients had a strong interactive effect on growth. Flindersia, with a broad tolerance to sun and shade, was intermediate in growth response and leaf adjustment, which is consistent with its success across a wide size range of forest gaps.

© CSIRO 1992

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