Photosynthesis Research

, 93:235 | Cite as

Chlorophyll fluorescence imaging of photosynthetic activity in sun and shade leaves of trees

  • Hartmut Karl Lichtenthaler
  • Fatbardha Babani
  • Gabriele Langsdorf
Research Article


The differences in pigment levels, photosynthetic activity and the chlorophyll fluorescence decrease ratio R Fd (as indicator of photosynthetic rates) of green sun and shade leaves of three broadleaf trees (Platanus acerifolia Willd., Populus alba L., Tilia cordata Mill.) were compared. Sun leaves were characterized by higher levels of total chlorophylls a + b and total carotenoids x + c as well as higher values for the weight ratio chlorophyll (Chl) a/b (sun leaves 3.23–3.45; shade leaves: 2.74–2.81), and lower values for the ratio chlorophylls to carotenoids (a + b)/(x + c) (with 4.44–4.70 in sun leaves and 5.04–5.72 in shade leaves). Sun leaves exhibited higher photosynthetic rates P N on a leaf area basis (mean of 9.1–10.1 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1) and Chl basis, which correlated well with the higher values of stomatal conductance G s (range 105–180 mmol m−2 s−1), as compared to shade leaves (G s range 25–77 mmol m−2 s−1; P N: 3.2–3.7 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1). The higher photosynthetic rates could also be detected via imaging the Chl fluorescence decrease ratio R Fd, which possessed higher values in sun leaves (2.8–3.0) as compared to shade leaves (1.4–1.8). In addition, via R Fd images it was shown that the photosynthetic activity of the leaves of all trees exhibits a large heterogeneity across the leaf area, and in general to a higher extent in sun leaves than in shade leaves.


Carotenoids Chlorophylls Chl a/b ratio Chlorophyll fluorescence decrease ratio RFd Chloroplast adaptation CO2 assimilation PN rates Stomatal conductance Gs 


a + b

Total chlorophylls


Ratio of chlorophyll a to b

(a + b)/(x + c)

Weight ratio of chlorophylls to carotenoids





Fp, Fo, and Fs

Maximum, initial, and steady Chl fluorescence


Fluorescence decrease from Fp to Fs


Maximum Chl fluorescence at non-saturating light conditions

Fv/Fm and Fv/Fo

Maximum quantum yield of photosystem II photochemistry measured in the dark adapted, non-functional state 2 of the photosynthetic apparatus


Stomatal conductance measured at light saturation


Net photosynthetic CO2 assimilation measured at light saturation


Chl fluorescence decrease ratio measured in the red band near 690 nm

x + c

Total carotenoids





We are grateful to Ms Sabine Zeiler for the excellent implementation of pigment determinations, and to Ms Gabrielle Johnson for English language assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hartmut Karl Lichtenthaler
    • 1
  • Fatbardha Babani
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gabriele Langsdorf
    • 1
  1. 1.Botanisches InstitutUniversity of KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Biological Research InstituteAcademy of SciencesTiranaAlbania

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