|Niinemets, Ü: Energy requirement for foliage construction depends on tree size in young Picea abies trees, Trees, 11, 420-431 (1997)|
The relationship between stand biomass production, and tree age and size is generally a curve with a maximum. To understand why wood production decreases in the final stages of stand development, the influence of increasing tree size on foliage chemical composition and substrate requirement for foliage construction in terms of glucose [CC, g glucose (g dry mass)(-1)] was investigated in the evergreen conifer Picea abies (L.) Karst. Because it was already known that irradiance affects both foliage morphology and chemistry in this species, and it was expected that the foliage in large overstory trees would intercept on average more light than that in saplings in understory, irradiance was measured in the sampling locations and included in the statistical models. CC of needles increased with increasing total tree height (TH) and was independent of relative irradiance. A major reason for increasing CC with increasing TH was a greater proportion of carbon-rich lignin in the needles in large trees. However, lignin did not fully account for the observed changes in CC, and it was necessary to assume that certain other carbon-rich secondary metabolites such as terpenes also accumulate in the foliage of large trees. Enhanced requirements for needle mechanical strength as evidenced by greater lignin concentrations in large trees were attributed to increased water limitations with increasing tree height. Because water relations may also control the sink capacities for assimilate usage, apart from the mechanical requirements, they may provide an explanation for the accumulation of other energetically expensive compounds in the needles as well. Biomass partitioning within the shoot was another foliar parameter modified in response to increasing tree size. The proportion of shoot axes, which serve to provide needles with mechanical support and to supply them with water, decreased with increasing TH.