Importance of natural cloud regimes to ecophysiology in the alpine species, Caltha leptosepala and Arnica parryi, Snowy Range Mountains, southeast Wyoming, USA Academic Article


  • Functional Plant Biology


  • © 2015 CSIRO.The south-central Rocky Mountains, USA, are characterised by a dry, continental mesoclimate with typical convective cloud formation during the afternoon. Little is known about the specific influence of such predictable cloud patterns on the microclimate and ecophysiology of associated species. During the summer of 2012, days with afternoon clouds were most common (50% of all days) compared with completely clear (24%) or cloudy days (6.5%). In two representative alpine species, Caltha leptosepala DC. and Arnica parryi A. Gray, fully overcast days reduced mean daily photosynthesis (A) by nearly 50% relative to fully clear days. Mean afternoon A was significantly lower on fully cloudy days relative to days with afternoon clouds only or no clouds in both species. Notably, A did not differ during afternoon cloud days relative to clear afternoons. Afternoon clouds significantly reduced transpiration (E) in C. leptosepala relative to clear days, and both species showed mean reductions in plant water stress (i.e. higher Ψ), though this difference was not significant. Water use efficiency (WUE) (A/E) decreased from morning to afternoon, especially on cloudy days, and the presence of clouds had a positive effect on the light reactions of photosynthesis based on fluorescence measurements (Fv′/Fm′), in both species. Cloudy days were characterised by higher Fv/Fm than afternoon clouds and clear days during both the morning and the afternoon (especially for A. parryi) and recovery to near pre-dawn values for cloudy and afternoon cloud day types, but not clear days. Overall, similar ecophysiological advantages of this typical afternoon cloud pattern was apparent in both species, although their spatial microsite differences related to winter snow accumulation may also play an important role.

publication date

  • 2015/1/1


  • Arnica
  • Caltha
  • Rocky Mountain region
  • ecophysiology
  • fluorescence
  • microclimate
  • mountains
  • photosynthesis
  • snow
  • summer
  • transpiration
  • water stress
  • water use efficiency
  • winter

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1445-4408

number of pages

  • 12

start page

  • 186

end page

  • 197