Correlates of leaf optical properties in tropical forest sun and extreme-shade plants

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Thirteens hade-adaptedr ain forest species were comparedw ith twelve sun-adaptedt ropical forest species for correlates to leaf optical properties (described previously in Amer. J. Bot. 73: 1100-1108). The two samples were similar in absorptance of quanta for photosynthesis, but the shade-adaptedt axa: 1) had significantlyl ower specificl eaf weights,i ndicatinga more metabolically efficient production of surface for quantum capture; 2) synthesized less chlorophyll per unit area; and 3) used less chlorophyll for capturing the same quanta for photosynthesis. The anatomical features that best correlate with this increased efficiency are palisade cell shape and chloroplast distribution. Palisade cells with more equal dimensions have more chloroplasts on their abaxial surfaces. This dense layer of chloroplasts maximizes the light capture efficiency limited by sieve effects. The more columnar palisade cells of sun-adapted taxa allow light to pass through the central vacuoles and spaces between cells, making chloroplasts less efficient in energy capture, but allowing light to reach chloroplasts in the spongy mesophyll. Pioneer species may be an exception to these two groups of species. Three pioneer taxa included in this study have columnar palisade cells that are extremely narrow and packed closely together. This layer allows little penetration of light, but exposure of the leaf undersurface may provide illumination of spongy mesophyll chloroplasts in these plants.

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