Image_2_Midday Depression vs. Midday Peak in Diurnal Light Interception: Contrasting Patterns at Crown and Leaf Scales in a Tropical Evergreen Tree.PDF

Crown architecture usually is heterogeneous as a result of foraging in spatially and temporally heterogeneous light environments. Ecologists are only beginning to identify the importance of temporal heterogeneity for light acquisition in plants, especially at the diurnal scale. Crown architectural heterogeneity often leads to a diurnal variation in light interception. However, maximizing light interception during midday may not be an optimal strategy in environments with excess light. Instead, long-lived plants are expected to show crown architectures and leaf positions that meet the contrasting needs of light interception and avoidance of excess light on a diurnal basis. We expected a midday depression in the diurnal course of light interception both at the whole-crown and leaf scales, as a strategy to avoid the interception of excessive irradiance. We tested this hypothesis in a population of guava trees (Psidium guajava L.) growing in an open tropical grassland. We quantified three crown architectural traits: intra-individual heterogeneity in foliage clumping, crown openness, and leaf position angles. We estimated the diurnal course of light interception at the crown scale using hemispheric photographs, and at the leaf scale using the cosine of solar incidence. Crowns showed a midday depression in light interception, while leaves showed a midday peak. These contrasting patterns were related to architectural traits. At the crown scale, the midday depression of light interception was linked to a greater crown openness and foliage clumping in crown tops than in the lateral parts of the crown. At the leaf scale, an average inclination angle of 45° led to the midday peak in light interception, but with a huge among-leaf variation in position angles. The mismatch in diurnal course of light interception at crown and leaf scales can indicate that different processes are being optimized at each scale. These findings suggest that the diurnal course of light interception may be an important dimension of the resource acquisition strategies of long-lived woody plants. Using a temporal approach as the one applied here may improve our understanding of the diversity of crown architectures found across and within environments.