On the ecophysiology of the Clusiaceae in Trinidad: expression of CAM in Clusia minor L. during the transition from wet to dry season and characterization of three endemic species


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A study was made of photosynthesis and expression of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) in naturally exposed and shaded populations of Clusia minor L. during the transition from wet to dry season in Trinidad (mid-February to mid-April, 1990). At the start of the dry season, plants from exposed and shaded habitats showed a capacity for CAM either through the fixation of external or internal (respiratory) CO2. Exposed plants showed continuous uptake of CO2 over 24 h although dark fixation accounted for only a small proportion of CO2 fixed over the day. The expression of CAM was considerably enhanced as the dry season progressed with substantial increases in the overnight accumulation of titratable acidity, particularly in leaves of exposed plants. This was accompanied by a reduction in day-time photosynthesis and an increase in dark fixation, with shaded plants showing only night-time fixation of CO2. The magnitude of CAM in C. minor was substantial with a maximum ΔH+ of 1410 mol m-3 measured in leaves from exposed branches. Both malic and citric acids were accumulated overnight. The highest citric:malic acid ratios were found in young leaves from exposed plants with 250 mol m-3 malic and 125 mol m-3 citric acid accumulated near the time of maximum CAM activity. Photosynthetic efficiency, measured as light responses of O2 evolution, also varied on a daily basis dependent on the incident photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD). Apparent quantum yield and photosynthetic capacity showed marked reductions depending on the degree of exposure, suggesting that photoinhibitory responses are important under natural conditions. An analysis of three members of the Clusiaceae endemic to Trinidad showed that each had the capacity to induce CAM activity, despite being found in a narrow range of habitats which have higher rainfall than those of C. minor. However, despite the variable expression of CAM activity, carbon isotope composition suggested that when integrated throughout the year, carbon accumulation is predominantly mediated via the C3 pathway in all the species studied.