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Keywords:

  • Apparent quantum yield;
  • leaf conductance;
  • transpiration;
  • water use efficiency

Net photosynthesis and transpiration of seedlings from shade tolerant, moderately tolerant and intolerant tree species were measured in ambient carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations ranging from 312 to 734 ppm. The species used, Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. (tolerant), Quercus alba L., Q. rubra L., Liriodendron tulipifera L. (moderately tolerant), Liquidambar styraciflua L. and Pinus taeda L. (intolerant), are found co-occurring in the mixed pine-hardwood forests of the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States. When seedlings were grown in shaded conditions, photosynthetic CO2 efficiency was significantly different in all species with the highest efficiency in the most shade tolerant species, Fagus grandifolia, and progressively lower efficiencies in moderately tolerant and intolerant species. Photosynthetic CO2 efficiency was defined as the rate of increase in net photosynthesis with increase in ambient CO2 concentration. When plants which had grown in a high light environment were tested, the moderately tolerant and intolerant deciduous species had the highest photosynthetic CO2 efficiencies but this capacity was reduced when these species grew in low light. The lowest CO2 efficiency and apparent quantum yield occurred in Pinus taeda in all cases. Water use efficiency was higher for all species in enriched CO2 environments but transpiration rate and leaf conductance were not affected by CO2 concentration. High photosynthetic CO2 efficiency may be advantageous for maintaining a positive carbon balance in the low light environment under a forest canopy.