• drought;
  • irradiance;
  • leaf;
  • respiration;
  • temperature


  • 1
    Climate-driven changes in leaf respiration (R) in darkness have the potential to determine whether low productivity ecosystems exhibit positive or negative carbon balances.
  • 2
    We investigated whether sustained exposure to full sunlight, shade and seasonal drought alters the temperature response of leaf R of field-grown Quercus ilex subsp. ballota in a dry-land continental Mediterranean ecosystem. The plants studied, experience large diurnal and seasonal variations in temperature.
  • 3
    Whilst growth irradiance impacted on photosynthesis, it had little effect on the short-term temperature dependence of leaf R. Moreover, although basal rates of leaf R (i.e. rates of R at a common measuring temperature) were higher in sun-exposed than shade-exposed leaves, growth irradiance had little impact on the degree of acclimation to seasonal changes in temperature and/or moisture. Basal rates of leaf R were higher in winter than summer in both sun-exposed and shaded plants. Estimated Q10 values (i.e. proportional increase in R per 10 °C rise in temperature) for leaf R were greater in winter than summer; however, no seasonal variation was found in the apparent activation energy (E0) of leaf R. These observations were used to construct a simple Arrhenius model that fully accounted for both daily and seasonal variations in the temperature dependence of R in both sun-exposed and shaded plants. Crucial to the model was accounting for the seasonal and irradiance-dependent shifts in the basal rate of leaf R.
  • 4
    Although the balance between daily R and photosynthesis increased markedly in summer (particularly under full sun), the increase in this ratio was markedly less than would have been the case if leaf R had not acclimated to the high average day time temperatures in summer.
  • 5
    It is concluded that seasonal acclimation of leaf R plays a crucial role in determining the viability of tree growth in dry-land, low productivity forest ecosystems.