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The effects of cleared larch canopy and nitrogen supply on gas exchange and leaf traits in deciduous broad-leaved tree seedlings.

Kitaoka S, Watanabe Y, Koike T

BRAIN Research Fellow, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Hitsujigaoka-7, Toyohira, Sapporo 062-8516, Japan.

To understand the leaf-level responses of successional tree species to forest gap formation and nitrogen deposition, we performed canopy clearing and nitrogen-amendment treatments in larch plantations and investigated the changes in the light-use characteristics and the leaf structure of the invading deciduous broad-leaved tree seedlings. We hypothesized that the responses of the tree seedlings to clearing and nitrogen input would reflect specific traits in the shoot development that would be related to the species-specific successional characteristics. The gap phase species Magnolia hyporeuca Siebold et Zucc. and the mid-late successional tree species Quercus mongolica Fischer ex Ledeb. var. crispula (Blume) Ohashi., which grow in or near the forest gaps, had higher light-saturated photosynthetic rates (Psat), enhanced mesophyll surface area (Smes) and increased leaf mass per area (LMA) under both the clearing treatment and the clearing with nitrogen-amendment treatment. These two species therefore increased their Psat via an increase in Smes and LMA. The LMA values of the late successional tree species Prunus ssiori F. Schmidt and Carpinus cordata Blume, which grow in the forest understory, were enhanced by the clearing treatment. However, they displayed lesser responses to the clearing treatment under which there were no marked increases in Psat or Smes values in the second year. These results indicate distinct and varied responses to disturbance regimes among the four seral tree seedlings. The Psat value largely increased in line with the increase in Smes value during the second year in M. hyporeuca and Q. mongolica. The nitrogen supply accelerated the change in LMA and increased the Smes value in the leaves of Q. mongolica.

Published 13 November 2009 in Tree Physiol, 29(12): 1503-11.
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