Short-term effects of light quality on leaf gas exchange and hydraulic properties of silver birch (Betula pendula)

Tree Physiol. 2017 Sep 1;37(9):1218-1228. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpx087.


Leaves have to acclimatize to heterogeneous radiation fields inside forest canopies in order to efficiently exploit diverse light conditions. Short-term effects of light quality on photosynthetic gas exchange, leaf water use and hydraulic traits were studied on Betula pendula Roth shoots cut from upper and lower thirds of the canopy of 39- to 35-year-old trees growing in natural forest stand, and illuminated with white, red or blue light in the laboratory. Photosynthetic machinery of the leaves developed in different spectral conditions acclimated differently with respect to incident light spectrum: the stimulating effect of complete visible spectrum (white light) on net photosynthesis is more pronounced in upper-canopy layers. Upper-canopy leaves exhibit less water saving behaviour, which may be beneficial for the fast-growing pioneer species on a daily basis. Lower-canopy leaves have lower stomatal conductance resulting in more efficient water use. Spectral gradients existing within natural forest stands represent signals for the fine-tuning of stomatal conductance and tree water relations to afford lavish water use in sun foliage and enhance leaf water-use efficiency in shade foliage sustaining greater hydraulic limitations. Higher sensitivity of hydraulic conductance of shade leaves to blue light probably contributes to the efficient use of short duration sunflecks by lower-canopy leaves.

Keywords: branch hydraulic conductance; intrinsic water-use efficiency; leaf hydraulic conductance; light spectrum; net photosynthesis; silver birch; stomatal conductance.

MeSH terms

  • Betula / radiation effects*
  • Light*
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects*
  • Trees / radiation effects