The short-term effects of two levels of air temperature (ambient and warmed) and light (full light and ca. 10% of full light regimes) on the early growth and physiology of Picea asperata and Abies faxoniana seedlings was determined using open-top chambers (OTC). The OTC manipulation increased mean air temperature and soil surface temperature by 0.51°C and 0.34°C under the 60-year plantation, and 0.69°C and 0.41°C under the forest opening, respectively. Warming, with either full-light or low-light conditions, generally caused a significant increase in plant growth, biomass accumulation, and stimulated photosynthetic performance of P. asperata seedlings. However, the warming of A. faxoniana seedlings only significantly increased their growth under low-light conditions, possibly as a result of photoinhibition caused by full light, which may shield and/or impair the effects of warming manipulation, per se, on the growth and physiological performance of A. faxoniana seedlings. In response to warming, P. asperata seedlings allocated relatively more biomass to roots and A. faxoniana more to foliage under similar environments. This might provide A. faxoniana with an adaptive advantage when soil moisture was not limiting and an advantage to P. asperata if substantial moisture stress occurred. Warming markedly increased the efficiency of PSII in terms of the increase in F v/F m and photosynthetic pigment concentrations for the two conifer seedlings, but the effects of warming were generally more pronounced under low-light conditions than under full-light conditions. On balance, this study suggested that warming had a beneficial impact on the early growth and development of conifer seedlings, at least in the short term. Consequently, warming may lead to changes in forest regeneration dynamics and species composition for subalpine coniferous ecosystems under future climate change. © 2007 The Ecological Society of Japan.
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