Effects of irradiance and spectral quality on leaf structure and function in seedlings of two Southeast Asian Hopea species

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We studied the development of leaf characters in two Southeast Asian dipterocarp forest trees under different photosynthetic photon flux densities (PFD) and spectral qualities (red to far-red, R:FR). The two species, Hopea helferi and H. odorata, are taxonomically closely related but differ in their ecological requirements; H. helferi is more drought tolerant and H. odorata more shade tolerant. Seedlings were grown in replicated shadehouse treatments of differing PFD and R:FR. We measured or calculated (1) leaf and tissue thicknesses; (2) mesophyll parenchyma, air space, and lignified tissue volumes; (3) mesophyll air volumes (Vmes/Asurf) and surfaces (Ames/Asurf); (4) palisade cell length and width; (5) chlorophyll/cm2 and a/ b; (6) leaf absorption; and (7) attenuance/absorbance at 652 and 550 nm. These characters varied in response to light conditions in both taxa. Characters were predominantly affected by PFD, and R:FR slightly influenced many characters. Leaf characters of H. odorata were more plastic in response to treatment conditions. Characters were correlated with each other in a complex fashion. Variation in leaf anatomy is most likely a consequence of increasing leaf thickness in both taxa, which may increase mechanical strength and defense against herbivory in more exposed environments. Variation in leaf optical properties was most likely affected by pigment photo-bleaching in treatments of more intense PFD and was not correlated with Amax. The greater plasticity of leaf responses in H. odorata helps explain the acclimation over the range of light conditions encountered by this shade-tolerant taxon. The dense layer of scales on the leaf undersurface and other anatomical characters in H. helferi reduced gas exchange and growth in this drought-tolerant tree.

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