Photosynthetic responses to water deficit in six Mediterranean sclerophyll species: Possible factors explaining the declining distribution of Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris, an endemic Balearic species

  • Gulías J
  • Flexas J
  • Abadía A
 et al. 
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We sought to explain the declining distribution in the Balearic Islands of the endemic shrub Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris R. Chodat, by comparing its photosynthetic response to drought with that of several widely distributed, competing Mediterranean species (R. alaternus L., Quercus ilex L., Pistacia lentiscus L., Q. humilis Mill. and P. terebinthus L.). All of the study species, except for the two Rhamnus species, avoided desiccation by rapidly adjusting their stomatal conductance at the onset of drought, and maintaining constant leaf relative water content. The two Rhamnus species showed desiccation-tolerant behavior; i.e., as drought progressed, their predawn leaf relative water content decreased simultaneously with stomatal closure. All four desiccation-avoiding species showed a significant positive correlation between leaf thermal dissipation (estimated by the fluorescence parameter NPQ (non-photochemical quenching)) and the de-epoxidation state of the xanthophyll cycle (DPS). The two Rhamnus species exhibited maximum DPS regardless of treatment, but only R. alaternus increased NPQ in response to drought. Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris had a high ratio of photorespiration to photosynthesis and a low intrinsic water-use efficiency; traits that are likely to be unfavorable for plant productivity under arid conditions. It also had the lowest DPS and thermal dissipation among the six species. We conclude that the photosynthetic traits of R. ludovici-salvatoris account for its limited ability to compete with other species in the Mediterranean region.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Deciduous
  • Drought
  • Evergreen
  • Gas exchange
  • Leaf mass area
  • Nitrogen
  • Pistacia
  • Quercus
  • Rhamnus
  • Xanthophyll cycle

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