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Verryckt, L. T., Van Langenhove, L., Ciais, P., Courtois, E. A., Vicca, S., Peñuelas, J., et al. (2020). Coping with branch excision when measuring leaf net photosynthetic rates in a lowland tropical forest. Biotropica, 52(4), 608–615.
Abstract: Measuring leaf gas exchange from canopy leaves is fundamental for our understanding of photosynthesis and for a realistic representation of carbon uptake in vegetation models. Since canopy leaves are often difficult to reach, especially in tropical forests with emergent trees up to 60 m at remote places, canopy access techniques such as canopy cranes or towers have facilitated photosynthetic measurements. These structures are expensive and therefore not very common. As an alternative, branches are often cut to enable leaf gas exchange measurements. The effect of branch excision on leaf gas exchange rates should be minimized and quantified to evaluate possible bias. We compared light-saturated leaf net photosynthetic rates measured on excised and intact branches. We selected branches positioned at three canopy positions, estimated relative to the top of the canopy: upper sunlit foliage, middle canopy foliage, and lower canopy foliage. We studied the variation of the effects of branch excision and transport among branches at these different heights in the canopy. After excision and transport, light-saturated leaf net photosynthetic rates were close to zero for most leaves due to stomatal closure. However, when the branch had acclimated to its new environmental conditions—which took on average 20 min—light-saturated leaf net photosynthetic rates did not significantly differ between the excised and intact branches. We therefore conclude that branch excision does not affect the measurement of light-saturated leaf net photosynthesis, provided that the branch is recut under water and is allowed sufficient time to acclimate to its new environmental conditions. © 2020 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Keywords: branch cutting; canopy physiology; French Guiana; gas exchange; photosynthesis; rainforest; stomatal conductance; ecological modeling; environmental conditions; forest canopy; leaf; measurement method; photosynthesis; tree; tropical forest; Gruidae