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Physiological and photosynthetic plasticity in the amphibious, freshwater plant, Littorella uniflora, during the transition from aquatic to dry terrestrial environments

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Wendy Elizabeth Robe, Professor Howard Griffiths


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The physiological and photosynthetic responses of Littorella uniflora (L.) Ascherson, an amphibious macrophyte of isoetid life form, to rapid and prolonged emersion onto dry land, was studied at a reservoir. Water relations were little affected in the short term, but declining water potential and turgor pressure indicated water stress after flowering. High leaf lacunal CO2 concentrations suggested continued CO2 uptake from sediments. In contrast, a switch from Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to C3 photosynthesis was indicated by much lower levels of ΔH+ (down minus dusk titratable acidity) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) activity in new terrestrial leaves, 7-8-fold higher activity of ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (Rubisco), and increased chlorophyll and soluble protein contents. Accumulated nitrate and amino acid pools were depleted, whereas storage of carbohydrates as soluble sugars, fructan and starch increased. Plant carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) declined, perhaps reflecting changes in C fixation processes, N metabolism, and source C and N. In leaves of plants grown half-emersed for an extended period, contrasting activities of PEPC and Rubisco were found in submersed and emersed portions. Overall, L. uniflora showed considerable phenotypic plasticity, yet seemed to remain poised for resubmersion; these characteristics could be adaptive in the unpredictable water margin habitat.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robe WE, Griffiths H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Plant, Cell and Environment

Year: 2000

Volume: 23

Issue: 10

Pages: 1041-1054

ISSN (print): 0140-7791

ISSN (electronic): 1365-3040

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-3040.2000.00615.x


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