Photosynthetic characteristics, leaf longevity and biomass accumulation of a threatened herb species, Arisaema heterophyllum, were studied in the understory of a riparian forest and at a neighboring deforested open site for 3 years in order to understand the combined effects of light and water availability. Light availability was 2- to 4-fold higher at the deforested than at the forest site during the growing season of the species, and precipitation varied considerably over the 3 years. Despite the difference in water availability among the years (dry in 1994 and 1996, and wet in 1995), the species showed a strong acclimation to the different light environments. Light-saturated assimilation rate on a leaf area basis, leaf mass area ratio (LMA), and relative growth rate (RGR) were all higher at deforested site. While a positive correlation between individual RGR and microsite light availability was found in the wet year, no correlation was found in the dry years, and mean RGR was significantly lower in the dry year at both sites. Leaf longevity, photosynthetic capacity on a leaf mass basis, dark respiration rate, and leaf conductance, varied considerably from year to year, especially in the plants at the open site, probably depending on water availability. In the dry years plants at the deforested sites showed a lower photosynthetic rate and leaf conductance under unwatered than under watered conditions. These results suggest that the water availability in a given year may strongly affect light acclimation and annual RGR of the herb species in natural habitats, even under mesic climate conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas