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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Responses of leaf morphology, NSCs contents and C:N:P stoichiometry of Cunninghamia lanceolata and Schima superba to shading

Liu, Qingqing; Huang, Zhijun; Wang, Zhengning; Chen, Yanfang; Wen, Zhumei; Liu, Bo; Tigabu, Mulualem


BackgroundThe non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs), carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) are important energy source or nutrients for all plant growth and metabolism. To persist in shaded understory, saplings have to maintain the dynamic balance of carbon and nutrients, such as leaf NSCs, C, N and P. To improve understanding of the nutrient utilization strategies between shade-tolerant and shade-intolerant species, we therefore compared the leaf NSCs, C, N, P in response to shade between seedlings of shade-tolerant Schima superba and shade-intolerant Cunninghamia lanceolate. Shading treatments were created with five levels (0, 40, 60, 85, 95% shading degree) to determine the effect of shade on leaf NSCs contents and C:N:P stoichiometry characteristics.ResultsMean leaf area was significantly larger under 60% shading degree for C. lanceolata while maximum mean leaf area was observed under 85% shading degree for S. superba seedlings, whereas leaf mass per area decreased consistently with increasing shading degree in both species. In general, both species showed decreasing NSC, soluble sugar and starch contents with increasing shading degree. However shade-tolerant S. superba seedlings exhibited higher NSC, soluble sugar and starch content than shade-intolerant C. lanceolate. The soluble sugar/starch ratio of C. lanceolate decreased with increasing shading degree, whereas that of S. superb remained stable. Leaf C:N ratio decreased while N:P ratio increased with increasing shading degree; leaf C:P ratio was highest in 60% shading degree for C. lanceolata and in 40% shading degree for S. superba.ConclusionS. superba is better adapted to low light condition than C. lanceolata through enlarged leaf area and increased carbohydrate reserves that allow the plant to cope with low light stress. From mixed plantation viewpoint, it would be advisable to plant S. superba later once the canopy of C. lanceolata is well developed but allowing enough sunlight.


Cunninghamia lanceolate; Light adaptation; Non-structural carbohydrate; Soluble sugar; Starch

Published in

BMC Plant Biology
2020, Volume: 20, number: 1, article number: 354
Publisher: BMC

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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