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Conifers Angiosperm Trees and Lianas: Growth Whole-Plant Water and Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Stable Isotope Composition (d¹³C and d¹8O) of Seedlings Grown in a Tropical Environment
Cernusak LA; Winter K; Aranda J; Turner BL
Seedlings of several species of gymnosperm trees angiosperm trees and angiosperm lianas were grown under tropical field conditions in the Republic of Panama; physiological processes controlling plant C and water fluxes were assessed across this functionally diverse range of species. Relative growth rate r was primarily controlled by the ratio of leaf area to plant mass of which specific leaf area was a key component. Instantaneous photosynthesis when expressed on a leaf-mass basis explained 69% of variation in r (P < 0.0001 n = 94). Mean r of angiosperms was significantly higher than that of the gymnosperms; within angiosperms mean r of lianas was higher than that of trees. Whole-plant nitrogen use efficiency was also significantly higher in angiosperm than in gymnosperm species and was primarily controlled by the rate of photosynthesis for a given amount of leaf nitrogen. Whole-plant water use efficiency TEc varied significantly among species and was primarily controlled by ci/ca the ratio of intercellular to ambient CO2 partial pressures during photosynthesis. Instantaneous measurements of ci/ca explained 51% of variation in TEc (P < 0.0001 n = 94). Whole-plant 13C discrimination also varied significantly as a function of ci/ca (R2 = 0.57 P < 0.0001 n = 94) and was accordingly a good predictor of TEc. The 18O enrichment of stem dry matter was primarily controlled by the predicted 18O enrichment of evaporative sites within leaves (R2 = 0.61 P < 0.0001 n = 94) with some residual variation explained by mean transpiration rate. Measurements of carbon and oxygen stable isotope ratios could provide a useful means of parameterizing physiological models of tropical forest trees.
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