Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa Michx.) and chinquapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii Engl.) leaves were exposed to high temperatures at various photosynthetic photon flux densities under laboratory conditions to determine if species-specific responses to these factors were consistent with the distribution of these oaks in gallery forests in the tallgrass prairies of northeastern Kansas, USA. Measurements of the ratio of chlorophyll fluorescence decrease, R(fd), indicated that chinquapin oak maintained greater photosynthetic capacity than bur oak across all tested combinations of irradiance (100, 400, 700 and 1000 micro mol m(-2) s(-1)) and temperature (40, 42, 44, 46 and 48 degrees C). In both oak species, manipulation of leaf temperature to about 47 degrees C for 45 min in the field led to a 45% decrease in carbon assimilation up to one week after the heat treatment, and to sharp reductions in stomatal conductance. Photosynthetic recovery patterns indicated that bur oak took longer to recover from heat stress than chinquapin oak, suggesting that heat stress may be important in determining distribution patterns of these oak species. Based on a comparison of the results with data from other forest species, we conclude that the photosynthetic temperature tolerances of bur oak and chinquapin oaks facilitate their dominance at the western limit of the eastern deciduous forest.
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