We explored the short-term adjustment in photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) in adult and young leaves of the understory neotropical shrub Psychotria limonensis Krause (Rubiaceae) in response to rapid changes in the light environment. Leaves were collected from 20 individual plants growing under sun and shade conditions on Gigante Peninsula, Barro Colorado Natural Monument (Republic of Panama), during the wet season of 1996. Leaves were distributed in four sequences of light treatments (AB leaves were expanded under sun and were transferred to shade, BA leaves experienced the opposite transfer, and the controls AA and BB leaves that were expanded and maintained under sun or shade conditions). Adult and young leaves did not differ in overall photochemical efficiency. Instead, differences were found among light environments, for which leaves transferred from shade to sun showed the lowest Fv/Fm ratios. There was no relationship between photochemical efficiency and leaf temperature. In P. limonensis, understory plants are susceptible of photoinhibition independently of the leaf ontogenetic stage. The approach utilized in this experiment allowed the rapid exploration of this capacity, and could be applied to poorly studied understory species
Keywords: chlorophyll fluorescence, photoinhibition, photosynthesis, psychotria limonensis, tropical forest, Panama