Tree diversity affects chlorophyll a fluorescence and other leaf traits of tree species in a boreal forest

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 15
  • SDG 13
  • Abstract:

    An assemblage of tree species with different crown properties creates heterogeneous environments at the canopy level. Changes of functional leaf traits are expected, especially those related to light interception and photosynthesis. Chlorophyll a fluorescence (ChlF) properties in dark-adapted leaves, specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content (N) and carbon isotope composition (δ13C) were measured on Picea abies (L.) H.Karst., Pinus sylvestris L. and Betula pendula Roth. in monospecific and mixed boreal forests in Europe, in order to test whether they were affected by stand species richness and composition. Photosynthetic efficiency, assessed by induced emission of leaf ChlF, was positively influenced in B. pendula by species richness, whereas P. abies showed higher photosynthetic efficiency in monospecific stands. Pinus sylvestris had different responses when it coexisted with P. abies or B. pendula. The presence of B. pendula, but not of P. abies, in the forest had a positive effect on the efficiency of photosynthetic electron transport and N in P. sylvestris needles, and the photosynthetic responses were positively correlated with an increase of leaf δ13C. These effects on P. sylvestris may be related to high light availability at the canopy level due to the less dense canopy of B. pendula. The different light requirements of coexisting species was the most important factor affecting the distribution of foliage in the canopy, driving the physiological responses of the mixed species. Future research directions claim to enhance the informative potential of the methods to analyse the responses of pure and mixed forests to environmental factors, including a broader set of plant species’ functional traits and physiological responses