, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 219–226 | Cite as

Light distribution in leaf chambers and its consequences for photosynthesis measurements

  • S. W. Hogewoning
  • G. Trouwborst
  • J. Harbinson
  • W. Van Ieperen
Original Papers


The impact of a heterogeneous distribution of actinic light within a leaf chamber for photosynthetic measurements by gas exchange on the photosynthesis-irradiance relationship was investigated. High-resolution light distributions were measured over the area of a commercially available clamp-on leaf chamber equipped with build-in red and blue LEDs, as well as over the area of a custom-made leaf chamber with external light source, using a low-cost digital camera and freely available software. The impact of the measured heterogeneity on the photosynthesis-irradiance response curve was calculated for two realistic scenarios. When the average light intensity over the leaf chamber area was estimated accurately, heterogeneity had minor effects on the photosynthesis-irradiance response curve. However, when the irradiance was measured in the chamber centre, which is common practice, and assumed to be homogeneous, for both leaf chambers the photosynthesis-irradiance response curve was subject to considerable error and led to serious underestimation of the light-limited quantum yield of photosynthesis. Additionally, mixed light sources with different heterogeneity patterns per light source, such as in the clamp-on leaf chamber, potentially increase errors due to heterogeneous physiological responses to light spectrum. High-resolution quantification of the leaf-chamber light distribution enables calculation of the correct average light intensity and already resolves the most pressing problems associated with heterogeneity. To exclude any light-distribution related errors in gas-exchange measurements a leaf chamber and actinic irradiance source design with a homogeneous light distribution is an absolute requirement.

Additional key words

gas exchange heterogeneity leaf chamber light distribution photosynthesis photosynthetic quantum yield 



light saturated gross assimilation rate


net assimilation rate


dark respiration


standard deviation


quantum yield for CO2 fixation


scaling constant for curvature light-response curve


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This research is supported by the Dutch Technology Foundation STW, applied science division of NWO and the Technology Program of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Philips and Plant Dynamics BV. We are grateful to Joost Ruijsch, Evert Janssen and Gradus Leenders for their contribution in equipment development. Helpful comments were provided by users of the CHDK-RAW internet-forum.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. W. Hogewoning
    • 1
  • G. Trouwborst
    • 1
  • J. Harbinson
    • 1
  • W. Van Ieperen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Sciences, Horticultural Supply Chains GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenthe Netherlands

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