Contribution of stem CO2 fixation to whole-plant carbon balance in nonsucculent species
Myrica cerifera L. (Myricaceae), the dominant woody species on many barrier islands along the southeastern coast of the United States, is expanding into grass-dominated, mesic, interdunal depressions where it forms dense thickets. Expansion may be attributed to a symbiotic nitrogen fixation with the bacterium Frankia, an evergreen leaf habit and, possibly, corticular photosynthesis (CP, i.e. refixation of respired CO2, %ref). We quantified seasonal variations in CP characteristics in first through fifth order branches of M. cerifera to determine the extent and relevance of CP to shrub expansion in coastal environments. Maximum mean %ref was 110±39 % of CO2 efflux in the dark (R D) in first order branches during winter. Minimum %ref was 18±3 % in fifth order branches during summer. Variations in %ref paralleled changes in incident photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD). As incident PPFD attenuated with increasing branch order, %ref decreased. A less dense canopy in winter led to increased PPFD and increases in %ref. Total chlorophyll (Chl) content and Chl a/b ratios were consistent with shade acclimation as branch order increased. CP may be a mechanism to enhance M. cerifera shrub expansion because of the potential increase in whole plant carbon use efficiency and water use efficiency attributed to refixation of respired CO2.