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We evaluated tolerances to salinity (10-2000mM NaCl) in three halophytic succulent Tecticornia species that are differentially distributed along a salinity gradient at an ephemeral salt lake. The three species showed similar relative shoot and root growth rates at 10-1200mM NaCl; at 2000mM NaCl, T. indica subsp. bidens (Nees) K.A.Sheph and P.G.Wilson died, but T. medusa (K.A.Sheph and S.J.van Leeuwen) and T. auriculata (P.G.Wilson) K.A.Sheph and P.G.Wilson survived but showed highly diminished growth rates and were at incipient water stress. The mechanisms of salinity tolerance did not differ among the three species and involved the osmotic adjustment of succulent shoot tissues by the accumulation of Na+, Cl- and the compatible solute glycinebetaine, and the maintenance of high net K+ to Na+ selectivity to the shoot. Growth at extreme salinity was presumably limited by the capacity for vacuolar Na+ and Cl- uptake to provide sufficiently low tissue osmotic potentials for turgor-driven growth. Tissue sugar concentrations were not reduced at high salinity, suggesting that declines in growth would not have been caused by inadequate photosynthesis and substrate limitation compared with plants at low salinity. Equable salt tolerance among the three species up to 1200mM NaCl means that other factors are likely to contribute to species composition at sites with salinities below this level. The lower NaCl tolerance threshold for survival in T. indica suggests that this species would be competitively inferior to T. medusa and T. auriculata in extremely saline soils.
Ecophysiology of stem succulent halophytes subject to changes in salinity and water availability: distinguishing natural dynamics from potential mine-related impacts
1/01/08 → 31/12/10