Physiological and morphological acclimation of shade-grown tree seedlings to late-season canopy gap formation

Shawna L. Naidu, Evan H. DeLucia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Because acclimation to canopy gaps may involve coordination of new leaf production with morphological or physiological changes in existing, shade-developed leaves, we examined both new leaf production and photosynthesis of existing leaves on shade-grown seedlings after exposure to a late-season canopy gap. Midway through the summer, we transferred potted, shade-grown seedlings of four co-occurring temperate deciduous tree species representing a range of shade-tolerance categories and leaf production strategies to gaps. Shade-tolerant Acer saccharum was the least responsive to gap conditions. It produced few new, high-light acclimated leaves and increases in photosynthesis rates of shade-developed leaves appeared stomatally limited. Intermediately shade-tolerance Fraxinus americana and Quercus rubra responded most, by producing new leaves and increasing photosynthetic rates of existing shade-developed leaves to levels not significantly different from gap-grown controls within four weeks of gap exposure. Shade-intolerant Liriodendron tulipifera was intermediate in response. In these species, the degree of shoot-level morphological acclimation (new leaf production) and leaf-level physiological acclimation (photosynthetic increases in existing leaves) appear coupled. Mechanisms of acclimation also appear related to intrinsic patterns of nitrogen use and mobilization, the ability to adjust stomatal conductance, and shade tolerance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Acer saccharum
  • Fraxinus americana
  • Leaf demography
  • Liriodendron tulipifera
  • Photosynthesis
  • Quercus rubra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science

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