The leaf anatomy of a broad-leaved evergreen allows an increase in leaf nitrogen content in winter

Authors

  • Onno Muller,

    Corresponding author
    1. Graduate school of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba Sendai 980-8578, Japan
    2. Tomakomai Research Station, Forest Research Station, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University, Takaoka, Tomakomai, Hokkaido, 053-0035, Japan
    3. Department of Plant Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Sorbonnelaan 16, PO BOX 80084, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Riichi Oguchi,

    1. Graduate School of Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku 113-0033, Japan
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  • Tadaki Hirose,

    1. Tokyo University of Agriculture, Sakuragaoka 1-1-1, Setagaya, Tokyo 156-8502, Japan
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  • Marinus J.A. Werger,

    1. Department of Plant Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Sorbonnelaan 16, PO BOX 80084, 3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Kouki Hikosaka

    1. Graduate school of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba Sendai 980-8578, Japan
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e-mail: onnomuller@hotmail.com

Abstract

In temperate regions, evergreen species are exposed to large seasonal changes in air temperature and irradiance. They change photosynthetic characteristics of leaves responding to such environmental changes. Recent studies have suggested that photosynthetic acclimation is strongly constrained by leaf anatomy such as leaf thickness, mesophyll and chloroplast surface facing the intercellular space, and the chloroplast volume. We studied how these parameters of leaf anatomy are related with photosynthetic seasonal acclimation. We evaluated differential effects of winter and summer irradiance on leaf anatomy and photosynthesis. Using a broad-leaved evergreen Aucuba japonica, we performed a transfer experiment in which irradiance regimes were changed at the beginning of autumn and of spring. We found that a vacant space on mesophyll surface in summer enabled chloroplast volume to increase in winter. The leaf nitrogen and Rubisco content were higher in winter than in summer. They were correlated significantly with chloroplast volume and with chloroplast surface area facing the intercellular space. Thus, summer leaves were thicker than needed to accommodate mesophyll surface chloroplasts at this time of year but this allowed for increases in mesophyll surface chloroplasts in the winter. It appears that summer leaf anatomical characteristics help facilitate photosynthetic acclimation to winter conditions. Photosynthetic capacity and photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency were lower in winter than in summer but it appears that these reductions were partially compensated by higher Rubisco contents and mesophyll surface chloroplast area in winter foliage.

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