[The effect of light and temperature of the CO2 exchange of different life forms in the ground vegetation of a montane beech forest].Oecologia 1972; 9(3):235-258O
In a montane beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest the influence of the climatic factors, light and temperature, on net photosynthesis and on the CO2 balance of the ground vegetation was investigated. The total turnover of carbon was calculated. Species studied included: Athyrium filix-femina, Oxalis acetosella, Luzula luzuloides, Deschampsia flexuosa and young plants of Fagus sylvatica. 1. The light compensation point in all spp. is between 300 and 500 lux except for D. flexuosa where it is 2 klx. Light saturation is attained at 2-3 klx for A. filix-femina, at 5-6 klx for O. acetosella, and at 6-7 klx for L. luzuloides and F. sylvatica. The net photosynthesis of D. flexuosa increases linearly upto 12 klx. This plant, therefore, is more closely related to plants with high light requirements than all the other species under experiment. 2. The maximum rates of net photosynthesis in O. acetosella and A. filix-femina are higher than in all the other plants, independent of the reference system. Per unit dry weight they even attain rates of CO2 uptake (22-27 mg CO2/gdw·h) known from herbs under the much better light conditions of an open habitat. F. sylvatica and L. luzuloides exhibit per unit dry weight only 30% of this rate and D. flexuosa 25%. On a leaf surface area and chlorophyll content basis differences are smaller: F. sylvatics attains 75%, L. luzuloides reaches 50% and D. flexuosa only 30% of the maximal rates of net photosynthesis of O. acetosella and A. filix-femina. The higher CO2 uptake of O. acetosella and A. filix-femina points to a better adaptation of their photosynthetic apparatus in comparison to all the other species of the same habitat. 3. At light saturation the temperature optimum of A. filix-femina and O. acetosella covers a smaller range at lower temperatures than was found in the other species. These attain almost maximal rates of net photosynthesis over the whole range of temperatures of their natural habitat. At decreasing light intensities the temperature optimum of O. acetosella changes from 13-18° C at 8-12 klx to a range of even lower temperatures (9-12° C at 1 klx). 4. The respiration of the rhizome and the roots of O. acetosella is per unit dry weight 40% of the dark respiration rate in the above ground material. 5. The daily gain of net photosynthesis per unit dry weight of O. acetosella and A. filix-femina is 4 times as high as in L. luzuloides and in F. sylvatica and 7 times as high as in D. flexuosa. Per unit of surface area and chlorophyll content differences are smaller. The sequence in all cases remains the same. During the night D. flexuosa has the highest relative respiratory loss. Its CO2 gain over 24 hours is very small. 6. The importance of sun flecks on the CO2 balance is small in all species except D. flexuosa. More important is the mean light intensity and the rate of net photosynthesis which is attained under these conditions. The amount of CO2 photosynthetically bound in sun flecks is 6% of the daily balance in A. filix-femina, 16-19% of the daily balance in O. acetosella, L. luzuloides and F. sylvatica, and 27% of the daily balance in D. flexuosa. The existence of D. flexuosa is dependent on the occurrence of sun flecks on the forest floor. The ecological significance of the relative light intensity in the mosaic-like distribution of plants on the forest floor is discussed. 7. The varying success in adaptation to the conditions of the habitat becomes even more evident when compared with the primary production of the beech crown. The daily gain of net photosynthesis of O. acetosella and A. filix-femina per unit dry weight is much larger than in either the sun or shade leaves in the canopy of the same stand. Per unit surface area of the leaves they attain 18-20%, per unit chlorophyll content 32% (L. luzuloides and the young plants of F. sylvatica 16-27%, D. flexuosa 4%) of the gain of net photosynthesis in the beech sun leaves. 8. A comparison with a model of primary production (maximal rates of net photosynthesis under experimentally optimal conditions over the whole day = 100%) shows what effect the different climatic factors of the natural habitat have in limiting the CO2 balance, and to what extend the actual CO2 gain reaches the physiological optinum. On the forest floor the rate of net photosynthesis is reduced primarily through the intense shade of the beech canopy and by dawn and dusk (reduction of the maximal CO2 gain in O. acetosella and in A. filix-femina ca. 50%, in L. luzuloides and F. sylvatica ca. 60% and in D. flexuosa ca. 86%). The effect of additional clouds is smaller (reduction of the maximal CO2 gain in all species 4-6%, maximal 19%). The effect of temperature is very small for L. luzuloides, F. sylvatica and D. flexuosa. Corresponding to the low temperature optimum the influence of the prevailing temperatures is much higher in O. acetosella and A. filix-femina (4-6% reduction of the maximal CO2 gain through temperatures above optimum). 9. For an assessment of the competition potential of O. acetosella compared to L. luzuloides and F. sylvatica for the vegetation period of April to August, the carbon balances of the whole plants were estimated. These are compared with the dry weight increase. Among the three life forms of the rhizome geophyte (Oxalis), the hemicryptophyte (Luzula) and the phanerophyte (Fagus) there are striking differences in the use and in the distribution of the CO2 gain. L. luzuloides invests 65% of the net photosynthetic gain as dry weight increment (O. acetosella only 44%, F. sylvatica 40%). Moreover, the growth of L. luzuloides takes place primarily above ground with the establishment of new leaves. The relative proportion of the growth above ground to the total dry weight increment is for L. luzuloides 63%, as against 57% in F. sylvatica and only 42% in O. acetosella. In respect to the total carbon balance the better use of the CO2 gain gives L. luzuloides in this habitat a higher competition potential than the photosynthetically more active O. acetosella. The constitutional differences in the photosynthetic activity are compensated for by the distribution of the assimilates to shoot and root.