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Consequences of light absorptance in calculating electron transport rate of desert and succulent plants


The proportional light absorptance by photosynthetic tissue (α) is used with chlorophyll (Chl) fluorescence methods to calculate electron transport rate (ETR). Although a value of α of 0.84 is often used as a standard for calculating ETR, many succulent plant species and species with crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) have photosynthetic tissues that vary greatly in color or are highly reflective, and could have values of α that differ from 0.84, thus affecting the calculation of ETR. We measured ETR using Chl fluorescence and α using an integrating sphere in 58 plant species to determine the importance of applying a measured value of α when calculating ETR. Values of α varied from 0.55-0.92 with a mean of 0.82 across species. Differences between ETR values calculated with measured α values ranged from 53% lower to 12% greater than ETR values calculated with a standard α value of 0.84 and were significantly different in 39 out of 58 species. While measurements of ETR using Chl fluorescence represent a rapid and effective assessment of physiological performance, the value of α needs to be considered. Measurements of α, especially on species with light-colored or reflective photosynthetic tissue, will allow more accurate determination of photosynthesis in succulent and CAM species. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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