Photosynthetic rates in relation to leaf phosphorus content in pioneer versus climax tropical rainforest trees

D. Raaimakers, R. G.A. Boot, P. Dijkstra, S. Pot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


In Guyana dense rainforest occurs on intensely weathered acid soils, low in soil phosphorus. To investigate whether low P availability limits photosynthesis of trees growing on these soils more than N does, leaf P and N content, and their relationship with the photosynthetic capacity (Asat, μmol CO2 m-2 s-1) were studied for nine pioneer and climax tree species in a range of light climates. Light environment was described using hemispherical photographs. For both pioneer and climax species, leaf P content (r2=0.71 and 0.23, respectively) is a more important determinant of Asat than leaf N content (r2=0.54 and 0.12, respectively). Pioneer species have a higher leaf P and N content than climax species. At similar P or N content, pioneers have a higher Asat than climax species. The saplings studied had a relatively high Asat, considering their low P concentration (15-30 μmol P g-1). All species studied had a constant leaf P and N concentration and photosynthetic capacity across light climates, because specific leaf mass (g m-2) increased similarly with light availability. This acclimation to a change in light environment makes a possible limitation of Asat by P or N independent of light environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-125
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1995


  • Climax tree species
  • Phosphorus Photosynthesis
  • Pioneer tree species
  • Tropical rainforest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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