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Ellison Abstract- 1996 Farnsworth and Ellison (Sun-shade)

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Farnsworth, E. J., and A. M. Ellison. 1996. Sun-shade adaptability of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle (Rhizophoraceae): changes through ontogeny at several levels of biological organization. American Journal of Botany 83: 1131-1143.


Rhizophora mangle L., the predominant neotropical mangrove species, occupies a gradient from low intertidal swamp margins with high insolation, to shaded sites at highest high water. Across a light gradient, R. mangle shows properties of both "light-demanding" and "shade-tolerant" species, and defies designation according to existing successional paradigms for rain forest trees. The mode and magnitude of its adaptability to light also change through ontogeny as it grows into the canopy. We characterized and compared phenotypic flexibility of R. mangle seedlings, saplings, and tree modules across changing light environments, from the level of leaf anatomy and photosynthesis, through stem and whole-plant architecture. We also examined growth and mortality differences among sun and shade populations of seedlings over 3 yr. Sun and shade seedling populations diverged in terms of four of six leaf anatomy traits (relative thickness of tissue layers and stomatal density), as well as leaf size and shape, specific leaf area (SLA), leaf internode distances, disparity in blade-petiole angles, canopy spread:height ratios, standing leaf numbers, summer (July) photosynthetic light curve shapes, and growth rates. Saplings showed significant sun/shade differences in fewer characters: leaf thickness, SLA, leaf overlap, disparity in bladepetiole angles, standing leaf numbers, stem volume and branching angle (first-order branches only), and summer photosynthesis. In trees, leaf anatomy was insensitive to light environment, but leaf length, width, and SLA, disparities in bladepetiole angles, and summer maximal photosynthetic rates varied among sun and shade leaf populations. Seedling and sapling photosynthetic rates were significantly depressed in winter (December), while photosynthetic rates in tree leaves did not differ in winter and summer. Seasonal and ontogenetic changes in response to light environment are apparent at several levels of biological organization in R. mangle, within constraints of its architectural baiiplan. Such variation has implications for models of stand carbon gain, and suggest that response flexibility may change with plant age.

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