Response of transpiration and photosynthesis to a transient change in illuminated foliage area for a Pinus radiata D. Don tree


David Whitehead, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, PO Box 69. Lincoln 8152. New Zealand.


Sudden but transient changes in the fraction or illuminated foliage area in a well-watered 7-year-old Pinus radiata D. Don tree were imposed by completely covering either the upper 22% or the lower 78% of the foliage for periods of up to 36 h. Measurements of transpiration flux density (E), tree conductance (gt), stomatal conductance (gs) and net photosynthesis (A) were made to test the hypothesis that compensatory responses would occur in the remaining illuminated foliage when the cover was installed. When the lower foliage was covered there was an immediate decrease in gt. However, when tree conductance was normalized with respect to the illuminated leaf area (gt'), it increased between 50 and 75%, depending on the value of air saturation deficit (D). The effect was also apparent from concurrent measurements of increases in gs and A up to 59 and 24%, respectively, for needles in the top third of (he crown. When the cover was removed these effects were reversed. The changes in the lower foliage when the upper foliage was covered were much smaller. Changes in bulk needle water potential were small. It is suggested that the observed responses occurred because of a perturbation to the hydraulic pathway in the xylem that could have triggered the action of a chemical signal to regulate stomatal conductance and photosynthesis.