Genetic variation in leaf pigment, optical and photosynthetic function among diverse phenotypes of Metrosideros polymorpha grown in a common garden

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74 Scopus citations


Coordinated variation has been reported for leaf structure, composition and function, across and within species, and theoretically should occur across populations of a species that span an extensive environmental range. We focused on Hawaiian keystone tree species Metrosideros polymorpha, specifically, 13-year old trees grown (2-4 m tall) in a common garden (approximately 1 ha field with 2-3 m between trees) from seeds collected from 14 populations along an altitude-soil age gradient. We determined the genetic component of relationships among specific leaf area (SLA), the concentrations of nitrogen (N) and pigments (chlorophylls, carotenoids, and anthocyanins), and photosynthetic light-use efficiency. These traits showed strong ecotypic variation; SLA declined 35% with increasing source elevation, and area-based concentrations of N, Chl a + b and Car increased by 50, 109 and 96%, respectively. Concentrations expressed on a mass basis were not well related to source elevation. Pigment ratios expressed covariation that suggested an increased capacity for light harvesting at higher source elevation; Chl/N and Car/Chl increased with source elevation, whereas Chl a/b declined; Chl a/b was higher for populations on younger soil, suggesting optimization for low N supply. Parallel trends were found for the photosynthetic reactions; light-saturated quantum yield of photosystem II (Φ PSII) and electron transport rate (ETR) increased with source elevation. Correlations of the concentrations of photosynthetic pigments, pigment ratios, and photosynthetic function across the ecotypes indicated a stoichiometric coordination of the components of the light-harvesting antennae and reaction centers. The constellation of coordinated morphological, biochemical and physiological properties was expressed in the leaf reflectance and transmittance properties in the visible and near-infrared wavelength region (400-950 nm), providing an integrated metric of leaf status among and between plant phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-400
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Leaf mass per area
  • Leaf optical properties
  • Light-use efficiency
  • Nitrogen allocation
  • Photosynthetic pigments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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