We measured leaf respiration with a Clark-type oxygen-electrode in 6 species of the genus Piper (Piperaceae) growing naturally in wet evergreen rainforest, in microsites characterized by a broad range of light availabilities. Species normally found in large gaps and clearings (Piper auritum and P. umbellatum) had approximately twice the dark respiration per unit of leaf area or dry mass as species found predominantly in shaded understory sites (P. aequale, P. lapathifolium and P. amalago). within a species, dark respiration was lower in the individuals growing in low-light sites than in the individuals growing in high-light sites. Over all species, leaf respiration was positively correlated with the average daily photosynthetically active photon flux density (PFD) at each site, and negatively correlated with mean leaf longevity. Respiration was insensitive to leaf age in a shade species. (P. lapathifolium) and in a generalist (P. hispidum) but decreased with increasing leaf age in a gap specialist (P. aurtium).
In experiments on greenhouse-grown plants, we titrated respiration with potassium cyanide (KCN) and/or salicylhydroxamic acid (SHAM) to determine the cytochrome and alternative pathway components to respiration in 4 Piper species. All 4 species, representing gap, generalist and shade species, exhibited alternative pathway respiration. Engagement of the cytochrome pathway (ϱcyt) varied from 0.69 in P. auritum to 1.04 in P. lapathifolium and engagement of the alternative pathway (ϱalt varied from 0.41 to 1.02. Although the shade species had lower respiration rates than the gap species, the capacities for cytochrome and alternative pathway respiration made up similar or greater fractions of total respiration in shade species.