Abstract

Photosynthesis was compared in three altitudinal populations of Espeletia schultzii: 3 100, 3 550 and 4 200 masl. The measured parameters were Rubisco activity (EC 4.1.139), chlorophyll, soluble protein and soluble sugars contents, and specific leaf area (SLA). The 4 200 m population had a higher Rubisco activity (at 4 °C) followed by those at 3 550 m and 3 100 m. There were no significant differences between populations at 3 100 m and 3 550 m (ANOVA), but their activities were different from those of the 4 200 m population. Chlorophyll a content decreased slightly with elevation, while chlorophyll b was constant; therefore, the Ra/b ratio decreased with elevation, but not significantly. The leaf soluble sugars content increased along the altitudinal gradient. Leaf protein content did not differ. The SLA decreased with altitude. The increase in Rubisco activity might reflect higher enzyme activation and not higher enzyme protein. The increase in soluble sugars is probably associated to Rubisco activity. Three out of the five measured parameters revealed differences with altitude, suggesting a compromise between a higher metabolic activity and a smaller cellular volume.