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ABSTRACT:

The stomatal response to vapor pressure deficit drives the apparent temperature response of photosynthesis in tropical forests

Article; Early Access

Slot, M; Rifai, SW; Eze, CE; Winter, K

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2024

NEW PHYTOLOGIST

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center dot As temperature rises, net carbon uptake in tropical forests decreases, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. High temperatures can limit photosynthesis directly, for example by reducing biochemical capacity, or indirectly through rising vapor pressure deficit (VPD) causing stomatal closure. center dot To explore the independent effects of temperature and VPD on photosynthesis we analyzed photosynthesis data from the upper canopies of two tropical forests in Panama with Generalized Additive Models. center dot Stomatal conductance and photosynthesis consistently decreased with increasing VPD, and statistically accounting for VPD increased the optimum temperature of photosynthesis (T-opt) of trees from a VPD-confounded apparent T-opt of c. 30-31 degrees C to a VPD-independent T-opt of c. 33-36 degrees C, while for lianas no VPD-independent T-opt was reached within the measured temperature range. Trees and lianas exhibited similar temperature and VPD responses in both forests, despite 1500 mm difference in mean annual rainfall. center dot Over ecologically relevant temperature ranges, photosynthesis in tropical forests is largely limited by indirect effects of warming, through changes in VPD, not by direct warming effects of photosynthetic biochemistry. Failing to account for VPD when determining T-opt misattributes the underlying causal mechanism and thereby hinders the advancement of mechanistic understanding of global warming effects on tropical forest carbon dynamics.

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