Salinity stress constrains photosynthesis in Fraxinus ornus more when growing in partial shading than in full sunlight: consequences for the antioxidant defence system
Background and Aims A major challenge in plant ecophysiology is understanding the effects of multiple suboptimal environmental conditions on plant performance. In most Mediterranean areas soil salinity builds up during the summer because of low availability of soil water coupled with hot temperatures. Although sunlight and soil salinity may strongly interact in determining a plant's performance, this has received relatively little attention. Methods Two-year-old seedlings of Fraxinus ornus were grown outdoors in pots during a Mediterranean summer in either 45%(shaded plants) or 100%(sun plants) sunlight irradiance and were supplied with either deionized water or deionized water plus 75 mM NaCl. Morpho-anatomical traits, water and ionic relations, gas exchange and photosystem II performance, concentrations of individual carotenoids, activity of antioxidant enzymes, concentrations of ascorbic acid and individual polyphenols were measured in leaves. Leaf oxidative stress and damage were estimated by in vivo analysis of stable free radicals and ultrastructural analyses. Key Results Leaf concentrations of potentially toxic ions did not markedly differ in shaded or sun plants in response to salinity. Leaves of sun plants displayed superior water use efficiency compared with leaves of shaded plants, irrespective of salinity treatment, and had both better stomatal control and higher CO2 carboxylation efficiency than leaves of shaded plants. In the salt-treated groups, the adverse effects of excess midday irradiance were greater in shade than in sun plants. The activity of enzymes responsible for detoxifying hydrogen peroxide decreased in shaded plants and increased in sun plants as a result of salinity stress. In contrast, the activity of guaiacol peroxidase and the concentration of phenylpropanoids increased steeply in response to salinity in shaded plants but were unaffected in sun plants. Conclusions It is concluded that salinity may constrain the performance of plants growing under partial shading more severely than that of plants growing under full sun during summer. The results suggest co-ordination within the antioxidant defence network aimed at detoxifying salt-induced generation of reactive oxygen species.
Annals Of Botany
Oxford University Press
PRIN Project TreeCity (MIUR, Rome, Italy); Uniser Consortium Pistoia