Variations in photoprotective potential along gradients of leaf development and plant succession in subtropical forests under contrasting irradiances

Tai Jie Zhang, Jin Zheng, Zheng Chao Yu, Xiao Qian Gu, Xing Shan Tian, Chang Lian Peng*, Wah Soon Chow

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    The successful development of photosynthetic organs is the basis of plant growth and community development. To reveal photo-acclimation to high irradiance in tree species during the course of leaf development and plant succession of subtropical forests, photosynthetic efficiency and photoprotective compounds were analyzed in young and mature leaves of three mid-successional tree species (Castanopsis fissa, Castanopsis chinensis and Schima superba) and three late-successional tree species (Machilus chinensis, Cryptocarya chinensis and Cryptocarya concinna), grown in 100% full sunlight (FL) or 30% of FL (low light, LL). Young leaves of the two species groups exhibited lower chlorophyll (Chl) content, Rubisco content, net photosynthetic rate (Pn), carboxylation efficiency (CE), effective photochemical yield (ΦPSII), photorespiratory electron flow (JO), but higher dark respiration (Rd), and ratios of carotenoids/chlorophylls (Car/Chl), anthocyanins/chlorophylls (Anth/Chl), flavonoids/chlorophylls (Flav/Chl), phenols/chlorophylls (Phen/Chl) and total antioxidant capacity/chlorophylls (TAC/Chl) than those of mature leaves, regardless of growth irradiance. Young leaves of both species groups demonstrated a higher flexibility of Anth/Chl, Flav/Chl, Phen/Chl and TAC/Chl in response to different light conditions than mature leaves. Flav/Chl in young leaves of late-successional group was remarkably higher than that of mid-successional group under the same light conditions. There was a negative correlation between antioxidant-dependent photoprotective potential and photosynthetic efficiency in young and mature leaves of the six tree species grown under either FL or LL. Our results explain partial mechanisms that lie behind the replacement of communities in subtropical forests: highly integrated photoprotective potential allows young leaves of shade-tolerant late-successional species to develop smoothly into mature organs under high irradiance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-32
    Number of pages10
    JournalEnvironmental and Experimental Botany
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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