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Responses of transpiration and photosynthesis to reversible changes in photosynthetic foliage area in western red cedar (Thuja plicata) seedlings

Pepin, S., Livingston, N.J., Whitehead, D.
Tree physiology 2002 v.22 no.6 pp. 363-371
Thuja plicata, carbon dioxide, stomatal conductance, seedlings, leaf area, lighting, shade, vapor pressure, photosynthesis, leaves, leaf conductance
Experiments were conducted on 1-year-old western red cedar (Thuja plicata Donn.) seedlings to determine the response of illuminated foliage to reversible changes in total photosynthetic foliage area (L(A)). Reductions in L(A) were brought about by either shading the lower foliage or by reducing the ambient CO2 concentration (c(a)) of the air surrounding the lower part of the seedling. In the latter case, the vapor pressure was also changed so that transpiration rates (E) could be manipulated independently of photosynthetic rates (A). We hypothesized that following such treatments, short-term compensatory changes would occur in stomatal conductance (g(s)) and A of the remaining foliage. These changes would occur in response to hydraulic signals generated by changes in the water potential gradient rather than changes in the distribution of sources and sinks of carbon within the seedling. When a portion of the foliage was shaded, there was an immediate reduction in whole-seedling E and a concomitant increase in g(s), A and E in the remaining illuminated foliage. However, the intercellular CO2 concentration did not change. These compensatory effects were fully reversed after the shade was removed. When the lower foliage A was reduced to < 0 micromol m(-2) s(-1), by shading or lowering c(a), and E was either unchanged or increased (by adjusting the vapor pressure deficit), there was no significant increase in g(s) and A in the remaining foliage. We conclude that compensatory responses in illuminated foliage occur only when reductions in L(A) are accompanied by a reduction in whole-plant E. The relationship between the reduction in whole-seedling E and the increase in A is highly linear (r2 = 0.68) and confirms our hypothesis of the strong regulation of gs by hydraulic signals generated within the seedling. We suggest that the mechanism of the compensatory effects is a combination of both increased CO2 supply, resulting from increased g(s), and a response of the rate of carboxylation, possibly related to the activity of Rubisco.