A one-year study on carbon, water and nutrient relationships in a tropical C3-CAM hemi-epiphyte, Clusia uvitana Pittier


  • G. Z. was on leave from Lehrstuhl Botanik II, Universität Würzburg, Germany, and was supported by a doctoral fellowship of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft (SFB 251, Universität Würzburg). The SFB 251 also provided facilities for mineral element analysis, and we are grateful to F. Reisberg and M. Lesch for performing these measurements. We thank Miguel Piñeros for excellent field assistance and J. A. C. Smith for critical comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


Diel (24 h) courses of CO2 and water-vapour exchange of leaves of hemi-epiphytic plants of Clusia uvitana Pittier (Clusiaceae) were measured under natural tropical conditions in the semi-evergreen moist forest of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, from January 1991 until January 1992. Plants were studied at two sites, in the crown of a 47-m tall tree (Ceiba pentandra) and on the shore of Lake Gatun, at a height of about 2–4 m. The following results were obtained: (1) Diel carbon gain was mainly a function of photosynthetic photon fluence rate (PPFR) on individual days. PPFR also strongly affected CAM activity. A leafless period of the host tree Ceiba pentandra resulted in higher incident PPFRs and slightly lower nighttime temperatures in the canopy of C uvitana; this led to increases in both daytime and nighttime CO2 fixation. (2) In fully mature sun leaves from the two sites, nocturnal net uptake of atmospheric CO2 occurred on almost all of the 71 days measured and nocturnal carbon gain was enhanced during the dry season. (3) In C. uvitana at the Lake site, 24-h carbon gain during the wet and dry season was similar to C. uvitana at the Ceiba site during the leafless period of the host tree. Overall CAM activity was lower at the Lake site. (4) Recycling of respiratory CO2 was a major route for nocturnal acid synthesis. Nocturnal net uptake of atmospheric CO2 was closely correlated with changes in titratable acidity, but accounted for only about 30% of the nocturnal increase in organic acids. (5) Mature shade leaves performed CAM only during the dry season, whereas in the wet season they showed atmospheric CO2 uptake exclusively in the light. (6) Independent of exposure or season, leaves less than about 12 wk old showed a C3 pattern of diel gas exchange and the level of titratable acidity was high day and night. (7) The annual carbon budget of outer canopy leaves of C uvitana in the Ceiba site was 1780 g CO2 m-2 a-1 and the average long-term water-use efficiency was 23 × 10-3 g CO2 g-1 H2O. (8) Vegetative growth was strongly seasonal. Branch length increment and leaf area development was much higher in the wet season. Mineral element contents in these evergreen plants showed no age-related changes, but a significant proportion of elements was retrieved before abscission.