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Image_1_Ecophysiological Traits of Invasive C3 Species Calotropis procera to Maintain High Photosynthetic Performance Under High VPD and Low Soil Water Balance in Semi-Arid and Seacoast Zones.EPS
The evergreen C3 plant Calotropis procera is native to arid environments. Thus, it grows under high vapor pressure deficit (VPD), intense light, and severe drought conditions. We measured several ecophysiological traits in C. procera plants growing in semi-arid and seacoast environments to assess the attributes that support its photosynthetic performance under these contrasting conditions. Gas exchange analysis, primary metabolism content, nutrients, the antioxidant system, and leaf anatomy traits were measured under field conditions. In the semi-arid environment, C. procera was exposed to a prolonged drought season with a negative soil water balance during the 2 years of the study. Calotropis procera plants were exposed to a positive soil water balance only in the rainy season in the seacoast environment. The leaves of C. procera showed the same photosynthetic rate under high or low VPD, even in dry seasons with a negative soil water balance. Photosynthetic pigments, leaf sugar content, and the activity of antioxidant enzymes were increased in both places in the dry season. However, the anatomical adjustments were contrasting: while, in the semi-arid environment, mesophyll thickness increased in the driest year, in the seacoast environment, the cuticle thickness and trichome density were increased. The ability to maintain photosynthetic performance through the seasons would be supported by new leaves with different morpho-anatomical traits, with contrasting changes between semi-arid and seacoast environments. Furthermore, our results suggest that an efficient antioxidative system and leaf sugar dynamics can contribute to protecting the photosynthetic machinery even under severe drought.
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