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The diel cycle of Serianthes nelsonii leaflet movements was characterized under four levels of shade from full sun to 22% sunlight transmission to determine the photoprotective components of diurnal leaflet movements and the relationship to patterns of nocturnal leaflet movements. Treatments also included negating paraheliotropism by re-orienting plants every 15min throughout the photoperiod such that the plants never experienced a predictable solar vector. The timing of leaflet closure to avoid high light, the shape of the diurnal curve depicting leaflet angle, and the maximum extent of leaflet closure were influenced by the shade treatments. Protection of leaf function by paraheliotropism was also influenced by shade treatment, with the full sun plants exhibiting the greatest level of protection. Leaflet heat gain was reduced 50% by leaflet movement as determined by direct measurements of leaf-to-air temperature differences. Midday quantum efficiency of photosystem II was increased 120% by leaflet movement as determined by direct measurements of pulse modulated chlorophyll fluorescence. The extent of nyctinastic leaflet closure was greatest in the high light plants that moved the most midday and least in the shaded plants that moved the least midday, indicating the extent of diurnal paraheliotropism controlled the amplitude of nocturnal leaflet movement. Serianthes nelsonii is highly skilled at using movement to reduce leaflet exposure to the solar vector, providing instantaneous behavioral control over heat gain and photoinhibition. This case study of an endemic tree species in Micronesia has added to the nascent field of conservation physiology, and indicated that heliotropism of S. nelsonii leaves may provide the species with the ability to minimize high light damage during increased temperatures associated with climate change.
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