Drought Effects on Photosynthesis and Implications of Photoassimilate Distribution in 11C-Labeled Leaves in the African Tropical Tree Species Maesopsis eminii Engl.
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Photoassimilate distribution inside leaves is less studied than photosynthesis, and yet the topic is important as it gives insights into the vital roles played by leaves in plant survival. We combined greenhouse measurements of light response curves with 11C-labelling using leaves of 3-year-old potted Maesopsis eminii Engl. trees to improve our understanding of its leaf carbon physiology. This fast-growing pioneer tree species showed low photosynthetic rates for a common tropical pioneer during well-watered reference conditions (5.0 0.7 mol m2 s1), which further decreased in response to drought. 11C-autoradiography indicated active phloem loading and/or rapid phloem transport rates. Active loading is uncommon in tree species, but might be related to deciduousness traits and continuous investment in growth, like in herbaceous active loaders. Active loading involves higher carbon allocation to growth, which might explain why low photosynthetic rates were observed in this fast-growing species. These findings suggest that examining photoassimilate distribution and transport may be critical for understanding the role tree physiology plays in terrestrial carbon cycling.
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