Acclimation of tropical tree seedlings to excessive light in simulated tree-fall gaps

G. H. Krause, O. Y. Koroleva, J. W. Dalling, K. Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acclimation to periodic high-light stress was studied in tree seedlings from a neotropical forest. Seedlings of several pioneer and late-succession species were cultivated under simulated tree-fall gap conditions; they were placed under frames covered with shade cloth with apertures of different widths that permitted defined periods of daily leaf exposure to direct sunlight. During direct sun exposure, all plants exhibited a marked reversible decline in potential photosystem II (PSII) efficiency, determined by means of the ratio of variable to maximum Chl a fluorescence (Fv/Fm). The decline in Fv/Fm under full sunlight was much stronger in late-succession than in pioneer species. For each gap size, all species exhibited a similar degree of de-epoxidation of violaxanthin in direct sunlight and similar pool sizes of xanthophyll cycle pigments. Pool sizes increased with increasing gap size. Pioneer plants possessed high levels of β-carotene that also increased with gap size, whereas α-carotene decreased. In contrast to late-succession plants, pioneer plants were capable of adjusting their Chl a/b ratio to a high value in wide gaps. The content of extractable UV-B-absorbing compounds was highest in the plants acclimated to large gaps and did not depend on the successional status of the plants. The results demonstrate a better performance of pioneer species under high-light conditions as compared with late-succession plants, manifested by reduced photoinhibition of PSII in pioneer species. This was not related to increased pool size and turnover of xanthophyll cycle pigments, nor to higher contents of UV-B-absorbing substances. High β-carotene levels and increased Chl a/b ratios, i.e. reduced size of the Chl a and b binding antennae, may contribute to photoprotection in pioneer species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1345-1352
Number of pages8
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Carotenoids
  • Chloropbyll fluorescence
  • Photoinhibition
  • Photosystem II
  • UV-B-absorbing compounds
  • Xanthophyll cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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