Photosynthesis and Optimal Light Microhabitats for a Rare Cactus, Mammillaria gaumeri, in Two Tropical Ecosystems
Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
Mammillaria gaumeri, an endemic cactus from Yucatan, is threatened due to human-mediated habitat fragmentation but knowledge regarding factors that would inform management plans is limited, including information on optimal microhabitats and growth. We studied seasonal patterns of microclimate, net CO2 uptake and growth of adult individuals during the dry, rainy and northwind (late fall to winter) seasons in separate populations located in a coastal dune and in a dry forest. To provide an assay of primary productivity, we measured the production of new axillary buds (areoles) from the apex. We found that patterns of net CO2 uptake in the three seasons were consistent with obligate crassulacean acid metabolism. The reduction in soil water potential and the increase in water vapor pressure deficit led to a reduction in 24-h net CO2 uptake from 18.0 to 1.3 mmol CO2/m2, after 30 d of drought. Dry-weight gain was maximal during the rainy season and there was no growth during the dry season, thus seasonal patterns of net CO2 uptake and growth for M. gaumeri reflected soil and atmospheric water contents. Annual dry-weight gain increased linearly with plant size and with total daily photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) up to 80 percent of ambient. Maximal growth was in exposed microhabitats receiving 60-80 percent of total ambient PPFD. We hypothesize that low-magnitude disturbances, resulting in more exposed microhabitats, might be beneficial for growth and conservation of adult individuals of this rare species.
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