Growth and physiological response of six Australian rainforest tree species to a light gradient

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Kelly, J, Jose, S, Nichols, JD & Bristow, M 2009, 'Growth and physiological response of six Australian rainforest tree species to a light gradient', Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 257, no. 1, pp. 287-293.

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An understanding of growth and photosynthetic potential of subtropical rainforest species to variations in light environment can be useful for determining the sequence of species introductions in rainforest restoration projects and mixed species plantations. We examined the growth and physiology of six Australian subtropical rainforest tree species in a greenhouse consisting of three artificial light environments (10%, 30%, and 60% full sunlight). Morphological responses followed the typical sun-shade dichotomy, with early and late secondary species (Elaeocarpus grandis, Flindersia brayleyana, Flindersia schottiana, and Gmelina leichhardtii) displaying higher relative growth rate (RGR) compared to mature stage species (Cryptocarya erythroxylon and Heritiera trifoliolatum). Growth and photosynthetic performance of most species reached a maximum in 30–60% full sunlight. Physiological responses provided limited evidence of a distinct dichotomy between early and late successional species. E. grandis and F. brayleyana, provided a clear representation of early successional species, with marked increase in Amax in high light and an ability to down regulate photosynthetic machinery in low light conditions. The remaining species (F. schottiana, G. leichhardtii, and H. trifoliolatum) were better represented as falling along a shade-tolerant continuum, with limited ability to adjust physiologically to an increase or decrease in light, maintaining similar Amax across all light environments. Results show that most species belong to a shade-tolerant constituency, with an ability to grow and persist across a wide range of light environments. The species offer a wide range of potential planting scenarios and silvicultural options, with ample potential to achieve rapid canopy closure and rainforest restoration goals.

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