Photosynthetic characteristics and their leaf-age dependence were examined to estimate ecophysiological effects on net primary production (NPP) of a polar willow (Salix polaris), a dominant dwarf shrub species in a polar semi-desert area of Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. Leaves of S. polaris emerged just after snowmelt in early July in 2000; flowers were initiated within 1 week, and fruits in late July. Light-saturated rate of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance to water vapor increased rapidly to their maximum values within 1 week after leaf emergence and then decreased gradually. Depending on the leaf age, photosynthetic rates saturated at photosynthetically active photon flux density (PPFD) of 200-400 μmol·m-2·s-1, which is the light level usually available in the natural habitat. Optimum leaf temperature of photosynthesis ranged from 10 to 18°C, while air temperature in the habitat ranged from 8 to 20°C. These light and temperature responses of photosynthesis of S. polaris would be suitable for efficient carbon gain in the natural habitat characterized by highly variable light and temperature conditions. Using the photosynthetic and respiratory characteristics, biomass distribution, and meteorological data, NPP of S. polaris in the current year was estimated to be 26.1 g C·m-2. A model simulation of rising temperature conditions predicted a reduction of NPP because of a large increase in respiration. It was suggested that temperature condition and leaf phenological aspects strongly influence the carbon fixation by plants in the high arctic area studied.
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