Carbon assimilation through a vertical light gradient in the canopy of invasive herbs grown under different temperature regimes is determined by leaf and whole-plant architecture.
This study examined the acclimation to temperature of two globally invasive species Iris pseudacorus and Lythrum salicaria, which share the same habitat type but differ in morphology. Iris pseudacorus has long vertical leaves, allowing light penetration through the canopy, while L. salicaria has stems with small horizontal leaves, creating significant self-shading. We aimed to build a physiological understanding of how these two species respond to different growth temperatures with regard to growth and gas exchange-related traits over the canopy. Growth and gas exchange-related traits in response to low (15°C) and high (25°C) growth temperature regimes were compared. Plants were grown in growth chambers, and light response curves were measured with infrared gas analysers after 23-33 days at three leaf positions on each plant, following the vertical light gradient through the canopy. After 37 days of growth, above-ground biomass, photosynthetic pigments and leaf N concentration were determined. The maximum photosynthesis rate was lower in lower leaf positions but did not differ significantly between temperatures. Iris pseudacorus photosynthesis decreased with decreasing leaf position, more so than L. salicaria. This was explained by decreasing N and chlorophyll concentrations towards the leaf base in I. pseudacorus, while pigment concentrations increased towards the lower canopy in L. salicaria. Biomass, shoot height and specific leaf area increased with temperature, more so in I. pseudacorus than in L. salicaria. Light response curves revealed that L. salicaria had a higher degree of shade acclimation than I. pseudacorus, probably due to self-shading in L. salicaria. High temperature decreased C assimilation at the bottom of the canopy in L. salicaria, while C assimilation in I. pseudacorus was less affected by temperature. As vegetative growth and flowering was stimulated by temperature, the invasive potential of these species is predicted to increase under global warming.