Recovery kinetics of photochemical efficiency in winter stressed conifers: the effects of growth light environment, extent of the season and species




Evergreens undergo reductions in maximal photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) during winter due to increases in sustained thermal energy dissipation. Upon removing winter stressed leaves to room temperature and low light, Fv/Fm recovers and can include both a rapid and a slow phase. The goal of this study was to determine whether the rapid component to recovery exists in winter stressed conifers at any point during the season in a seasonally extreme environment. Additional goals were to compare the effects of species, growth light environment and the extent of the winter season on recovery kinetics in conifers. Four species (sun and shade needle) were monitored during the winter of 2007/2008: eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), Taxus cuspidata and white spruce (Picea glauca). Fv/Fm was measured in the field, and then monitored indoors at room temperature and low light for 6 days. The results showed that all species showed a rapid component to recovery in early winter that disappeared later in the season in sun needles but was present in shade needles on most days monitored during winter. There were differences among species in the recovery kinetics across the season, with pine recovering the most slowly and spruce the most quickly. The results suggest an important role for the rapidly reversible form of energy dissipation in early winter, as well as important differences between species in their rate of recovery in late winter/early spring which may have implications for spring onset of photosynthesis.