Journal Article

Hydraulic architecture and photosynthetic capacity as constraints on release from suppression in Douglas-fir and western hemlock

Heidi J. Renninger, Frederick C. Meinzer and Barbara L. Gartner

in Tree Physiology

Volume 27, issue 1, pages 33-42
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/27.1.33
Hydraulic architecture and photosynthetic capacity as constraints on release from suppression in Douglas-fir and western hemlock

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We compared hydraulic architecture, photosynthesis and growth in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco), a shade-intolerant species, and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.), a shade-tolerant species, to study the temporal pattern of release from suppressive shade. In particular, we sought to determine whether hydraulic architecture or photosynthetic capacity is most important in constraining release. The study was conducted at two sites with mixed stands of 10- to 20-year-old Douglas-fir and western hemlock. At one site, the stand had been thinned allowing release of the understory trees, whereas at the other site, the stand remained unthinned. Douglas-fir had lower height growth (from 1998–2003) and lower relative height growth (height growth from 1998 to 2003/height in 1998) than western hemlock. However, relative height growth of released versus suppressed trees was higher in Douglas-fir (130%) than in western hemlock (65%), indicating that, although absolute height growth was less, Douglas-fir did release from suppression. Release seemed to be constrained initially by a limited photosynthetic capacity in both species. Five years after release, Douglas-fir trees had 14 times the leaf area and 1.5 times the leaf nitrogen concentration (Narea) of suppressed trees. Needles of released western hemlock trees had about twice the maximum assimilation rate (Amax) at ambient [CO2] as needles of suppressed trees and exhibited no photoinhibition at the highest irradiances. After release, trees increased in leaf area, leaf N concentration and overall photosynthetic capacity. Subsequently, hydraulic architecture appeared to constrain release in Douglas-fir and, to a lesser extent, in western hemlock. Released trees had significantly less negative foliar δ13C values than suppressed trees and showed a positive relationship between leaf area:sapwood area ratio (AL/AS) and δ13C, suggesting that trees with more leaf area for a given sapwood area experienced a stomatal limitation on carbon gain. Nonetheless, these changes had no significant effects on leaf specific conductivities of suppressed versus released trees of either species, but leaf specific root conductance was significantly lower in released Douglas-fir.

Keywords: A/Ci curves; advance regeneration; δ13C; leaf-specific conductivity; light-response curves; nitrogen content; root conductance

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Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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