Ecophysiological investigations of understory eastern redcedar in central Missouri

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Ecophysiological investigations of understory eastern redcedar in central Missouri

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Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a sun-adapted, drought-resistant pioneer species common to pastures, abandoned fields, fence rows, and calcareous rock outcrops throughout the eastern United States. However, it is also a frequent component of the understory in mature oakhickory forests in central Missouri, where light levels are typically < 10% of full sunlight during much of the growing season. This is below eastern redcedar's reported optimum for photosynthesis. The competitive survival of understory eastern redcedar under such environmental conditions was apparently due to it being an evergreen conifer in a deciduous forest. Hence, its foliage was able to maintain a positive carbon dioxide balance throughout much of the year, with maximum net photosynthetic rates occurring during periods when the overstory was leafless. The greatest daily average net photosynthetic rates (Ph,) occurred during overstory leaf emergence when temperatures were moderate and light levels to the understory trees were annually the highest. Furthermore, since leaf temperatures and tree water deficits were relatively low at this time, daily gas exchange rates were not greatly limited by midday stomatal closure. After the overstory foliage had fully developed, understory light levels averaged -S50-800o below levels observed in early spring. Thus, photosynthesis was severely light limited during the day, resulting in Ph, that were 15-45% of the springtime maxima. The greatest daily average transpiration rates (TR) occurred during the summer due to the high evaporative demand. Increasing leaf temperatures and tree water deficits became more important by late summer, causing stomatal closure during some afternoons, which reduced Ph,, and TR to :730 and 40%, respectively, of the early summer levels. During the autumn, winter, and early spring, understory light levels were normally above the saturation point for photosynthesis. The light saturation point for an understory study tree (expressed as flux of photosynthetically active photons) was ;800 Armol m--2 s1, less than half of that reported for open-grown eastern redcedar. This relatively lower light saturation point suggested an adjustment to shade conditions. During the autumn overstory defoliation period, light levels to understory trees progressively increased, and Ph, eventually reached 80W of the springtime maximum. In contrast, TR only reached ;25% of the summer maximum, owing to relatively low evaporative demands. During the late autumn and winter, low leaf and soil temperatures combined to limit gas exchange severely. The major controlling factors seemed to be cold air temperatures directly inhibiting Ph, and cold soil temperatures indirectly producing tree water deficits due to reduced water uptake at the soil-root interface. Such conditions promoted persistent stomatal closure, resulting in Ph, near zero. However, a temporary warming trend during the winter caused an increase in Ph,, to a level -301O of the springtime maximum. Higher net photosynthetic rates probably were not possible due to the effects of low soil and air temperatures on the stomatal mechanism and on the photosynthetic apparatus.


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Lassoie, J. P., Dougherty, P. M., Reich, P. B., Hinckley, T. M., Metcalf, C. M., & Dina, S. J.. (1983). Ecophysiological Investigations of Understory Eastern Redcedar in Central Missouri. Ecology, 64(6), 1355–1366.

Suggested citation

Lassoie, James P; Dougherty, Phillip M; Reich, Peter B; Hinckley, Thomas M; Metcalf, Clifford M; Dina, Stephen J. (1983). Ecophysiological investigations of understory eastern redcedar in central Missouri. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, 10.2307/1937490.

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