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Solar UV-B and visible radiation in tropical forest gaps: measurements partitioning direct and diffuse radiation


Stephan Flint, fax +1/435 797 3796, e-mail


Solar ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation penetrates plant canopies to a different degree than photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) because UV-B is diffused to a greater degree by the atmosphere. We measured both global (total) and diffuse solar radiation in canopy gaps of a semideciduous tropical forest in Panama. Measurements were simultaneously made in the UV-B and PAR wavebands. Compared to unobstructed measurements taken outside the forest, the sunlit portions of gaps were depleted in the proportion of UV-B relative to PAR, especially at midday. Shaded areas, in contrast, were always richer in UV-B relative to PAR, but the magnitude of the change varied greatly. Presumably this variation was due to the differences in the directional nature of diffuse solar UV-B radiation as compared to diffuse PAR. Measurements in the gaps showed substantial reductions in the proportion of radiation in the diffuse components of both the UV-B and PAR wavebands. However, because of the greater proportion of UV-B which is diffuse, it tended to predominate in shaded areas. Similar patterns were seen in measurements taken at temperate latitudes. Response of shade- and gap-dwelling plants to these high UV-B:PAR ratios has received little attention.