Photosynthetic responses to leaf surface wetness in tropical plant species of Costa Rica with varying leaf traits
Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Wet tropical forests are some of the environments with the greatest annual precipitation, but are also considered as the world’s major carbon sink; however, literature postulates that phothsynthesis rates are inhibited while leaves are wet. Yet measurements of photosynthesis during wet conditions are challenging to obtain due to equipment limitations and the extreme complexity of canopy-atmosphere interactions in tropical environments. The objective of this study was to evaluate tropical species reactions to simulated leaf wetness and test the hypothesis that leaf wetness reduces rates of photosynthesis. In a central Costa Rica site with an average 4200 mm annual rainfall, we selected six tropical species with distinct leaf traits in which five sun-exposed leaf replicates from each species were subjected to gas exchange measurements using a LI-6400 IRGA (LICOR Inc., Lincoln, NE) under dry and wet/misted leaf conditions. Relationships between photosynthesis (As) and stomatal conductance (gs) with leaf to air temperature difference (DT), VPD, and relative humidity were evaluated using linear regression analysis. We found that the responses varied greatly among species, but all plants maintained a baseline of activity under wet leaf conditions, suggesting that abaxial leaf As was a significant percentage of total leaf As. Stachytarpheta jamaicens had an 18.7% reduction in As, while others, like Zamia skinneri, had a 7% increase in As. Tibouchina heteromalla showed a rapid stomatal recovery of 2 mins, while Carapa guianensis was slower with 7 mins. This variability between species suggests that leaf traits, such as presence or absence of trichomes, water repellency, vein distribution and size and leaf angle variation, may be critical for optimizing photosynthesis under wet conditions. Relative humidity and leaf temperature were the strongest secondary influences on As and gs under wet leaf conditions. While tropical vegetation-atmosphere interactions are complex, such leaf-level data are vital for an accurate modeling of growth in tropical environments.