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Relationships among photosynthesis, foliar nitrogen and stomatal conductance in tropical rain forest vegetation. Tomas Domingues; Joe Berry; Luiz Martinelli; Jean Ometto & Jim Ehleringer 1. Results IV Stomatal Conductance

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Relationships among photosynthesis, foliar nitrogen and stomatal conductance in tropical rain forest vegetation

Tomas Domingues; Joe Berry; Luiz Martinelli; Jean Ometto & Jim Ehleringer1

Results IV

Stomatal Conductance

There is a strong positive correlation between Amax and stomatal conductance at the species level (F=25.5, P<0.001). However, this is not significant when calculated for functional groups (Figure F) (F=6.28, P=0.09).

Figure G shows measured Ci/Ca values and its correlation with d13C.

Results III

Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNEU) is the ratio of Amax over foliar nitrogen. Lianas showed the lowest PNEU among all groups (Figure E), indicating that this group is perhaps more susceptible to water stress. The Grass functional group showed the highest PNEU (= 27.3) (not shown in this figure).

Results I - Canopy structure

A tall, dense canopy characterizes the primary forest site used in this study. Canopy height varies between 30 and 40 meters. Figure A represents the profile of Leaf Area Index (LAI) for the primary forest. The distribution of leaves inside the canopy causes the light environment to change with height. Associated with such changes, leaves exhibit variations in area-to-mass ratio (Specific Leaf Area - SLA), shown in Figure B. The figures contain data from three locations.


Significant correlations have been observed between maximum

carbon assimilation rates (Amax) and nitrogen content of leaves

for several ecosystems. This relationship has been used to simplify

a number of ecosystem-scale carbon balance models. The amount

of nitrogen plants allocate to photosynthetic activities is a function

of the light levels experienced by a particular leaf. Tropical rain

forests displays complex canopies with high species richness.

We tested the hypothesis that carbon assimilation rates

can be predicted based on leaf nitrogen content for plant

functional groups from an evergreen tropical rain forest

ecosystem and a pasture site near Santarém (PA), Brazil.







Amax, respiration rates, stomatal conductance to water vapor at Amax, and Ci at Amax

where measured on 25 plant species grouped into 6 functional groups as follows:

Both the primary forest and the pasture sites were located about 70 km south

of Santarém (2° 25’ S, 54° 43’ W). Sampling period ranged from

November 1999 through July 2003 covering both wet and dry season.

Gas-exchange measurements were collected with a Li-Cor 6400.

The environmental conditions within the Li-Cor chamber were held constant.

Leaf area was determined by drawing the leaf contour on paper, just after the

gas- exchange measurements, and calculating this area using NIH-Image

software. After drying, leaf dry weight, nitrogen content and d13C were

determined at Laboratório de Ecologia Isotópica of the Centro de Energia Nuclear na

Agricultura (CENA) of the University of São Paulo, Piracicaba, Brazil.

Results II - CO2 fluxes and Foliar Nitrogen

Leaves allocate considerable portion of available nitrogen to

the protein pool responsible for photosynthesis. Figure C shows

a significant positive correlation between Amax and leaf nitrogen

(F=9.02; P=0.007). Grass was omitted in this regression because

they use the C4 photosynthetic pathway and thus depart from the

expected nitrogen-assimilation relationship. Daytime dark

respiration rate is determined by leaf metabolism. The species

showed a significant positive correlation with leaf nitrogen

content (F=11.6; P=0.003) (figure D). When data were averaged

into functional groups neither regressions was significant.



  • Conclusions
  • Leaf distribution creates a heterogeneous environment inside the forest canopy.
  • Species showed strong correlation of Leaf Nitrogen to both Amax and Respiration.
  • Nitrogen use efficiency, stomatal conductance, Ci/Ca and 13C data suggest that lianas are more susceptible to water stress.
  • Boundaries between functional groups were not obvious in this study.


We are grateful for the financial support provided by NASA LBA-ECO.

We also appreciate the help from the LBA-office at Santarém

and from our friends at the Ehleringer Lab.