Journal Article

Leaf phenology, photosynthesis, and the persistence of saplings and shrubs in a mature northern hardwood forest

David S. Gill, Jeffrey S. Amthor and F. Herbert Bormann

in Tree Physiology

Volume 18, issue 5, pages 281-289
Published in print May 1998 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online May 1998 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
Leaf phenology, photosynthesis, and the persistence of saplings and shrubs in a mature northern hardwood forest

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We quantified leaf phenologies of saplings and overstory trees of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), and the shrub hobblebush viburnum (Viburnum alnifolium Marsh.) in a 72-year-old northern hardwood forest. Seasonal changes in irradiance in the shrub layer, and in the leaf CO2 exchange of viburnum, and sugar maple and beech saplings were also measured. Leaf expansion occurred earlier in the spring and green leaves were retained later in the autumn in saplings and shrubs than in overstory trees. During the spring light phase (before overstory closure), large CO2 gains by all three shrub-layer species occurred as a result of a combination of relatively large leaf area, high photosynthetic capacity, and high irradiance. Throughout the summer shade phase, photosynthetic capacity at a given irradiance remained relatively constant, but CO2 gain was typically limited by low irradiances. Even though irradiance in the shrub layer increased during the autumn light phase as the overstory opened, CO2 gains were modest compared to springtime values because of declining leaf area and photosynthetic capacity in all three species. The CO2 gains during the spring light phase, and to a lesser extent during the autumn light phase, may be important to the carbon balance and long-term persistence of saplings and shrubs in the usually light-limited shrub layer of a northern hardwood forest. Therefore, for some late-successional species, leaf phenology may be an important characteristic that permits their long-term persistence in the shrub layer of mature northern hardwood forests.

Keywords: Acer saccharum; American beech; carbon gain; Fagus grandifolia; hobblebush viburnum; Hubbard Brook; shade tolerance; sugar maple; Viburnum alnifolium

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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