Day-night changes in the leaf water relations of epiphytic bromeliads in the rain forests of Trinidad
Smith JAC., Griffiths H., Bassett M., Griffiths NM.
A study was made of the bulk-leaf water relations of selected species of epiphytic bromeliads growing in their natural habitat in Trinidad (West Indies). Field measurements were made during the rainy season at three forest sites centred on the wetter part of the island. The epiphytic bromeliads were sampled in situ using modified rock-climbing techniques at 4- to 6-h intervals during complete day-nigh cycles. Eleven species were studied that differed in their photosynthetic pathways and habitat preferences. The C3 species among the epiphytic bromeliads characteristically showed maximum values of xylem tension (measured with the pressure chamber) during the day, whereas the species with crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) attained maximum values towards the end of the night. In addition, the CAM species showed large nocturnal increases in leaf-cell-sap osmotic pressure and titratable acidity. These nocturnal increases showed mean values of 0.601 MPa and 289 mol H+ m-3, respectively, for four species sampled at an exposed forest clearing (250 m), where CAM species were well represented. At the other two sites, a lowland forest (60 m) and a ridge forest (740 m), CAM bromeliads were found in the forest canopy, but in the lowest strata all the bromeliads were C3 species. This species distribution was associated with a marked vertical stratification of microlimate, the forest canopy being characterized by much bigger day-night changes in temperature and water-vapour-pressure deficit than the undergrowth. The C3-CAM intermediate Guzmania monostachia var. monostachia showed significant nocturnal acidification in the forest clearing but not in the understory of the lowland forest. Taken as a whole, the C3 and CAM bromeliads were very similar in the range of values observed for xylem tension and osmotic pressure, as well as in aspects of their leaf anatomy. However, epidermal trichomes covered a large percentage of the leaf surface area in xeromorphic species (e.g. Tillandsia utriculata), whereas they were poorly developed in shade-tolerant species (e.g. G. lingulata var. lingulata). The absolute values of sylem tension and osmotic pressure were low for all species. Mean minimum xylem tension during the day-night cycles was in the range of 0.18-0.23 MPa and mean maximum in the range 0.41-0.53 MPa; during periods of rain, xylem tension reached a mean minimum of 0.12 MPa. Mean minimum osmotic pressure was in the range 0.449-0.523 MPa. Such between-site and between-species differences as were observed in the water relations of the bromeliads could be related to the microclimatic conditions prevailing in the various epiphytic habitats. © 1985 Springer-Verlag.