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The role of soluble sugars during drought in tropical tree seedlings with contrasting tolerances


O’Brien, Michael J; Valtat, Annabelle; Abiven, Samuel; Studer, Mirjam S; Ong, Robert; Schmid, Bernhard (2020). The role of soluble sugars during drought in tropical tree seedlings with contrasting tolerances. Journal of Plant Ecology, 13(4):389-397.

Abstract

Aims

Non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) are plant storage compounds used for metabolism, transport, osmoregulation and regrowth following the loss of plant tissue. Even in conditions suitable for optimal growth, plants continue to store NSCs. This storage may be due to passive accumulation from sink-inhibited growth or active reserves that come at the expense of growth. The former pathway implies that NSCs may be a by-product of sink limitation, while the latter suggests a functional role of NSCs for use during poor conditions.
Methods

Using 13C pulse labelling, we traced the source of soluble sugars in stem and root organs during drought and everwet conditions for seedlings of two tropical tree species that differ in drought tolerance to estimate the relative allocation of NSCs stored prior to drought versus NSCs assimilated during drought. We monitored growth, stomatal conductance, stem water potential and NSC storage to assess a broad carbon response to drought.
Important Findings

We found that the drought-sensitive species had reduced growth, conserved NSC concentrations in leaf, stem and root organs and had a larger proportion of soluble sugars in stem and root organs that originated from pre-drought storage relative to seedlings in control conditions. In contrast, the drought-tolerant species maintained growth and stem and root NSC concentrations but had reduced leaf NSCs concentrations with a larger proportion of stem and root soluble sugars originated from freshly assimilated photosynthates relative to control seedlings. These results suggest the drought-sensitive species passively accumulated NSCs during water deficit due to growth inhibition, while the drought-tolerant species actively responded to water deficit by allocating NSCs to stem and root organs. These strategies seem correlated with baseline maximum growth rates, which supports previous research suggesting a trade-off between growth and drought tolerance while providing new evidence for the importance of plasticity in NSC allocation during drought.

Abstract

Aims

Non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) are plant storage compounds used for metabolism, transport, osmoregulation and regrowth following the loss of plant tissue. Even in conditions suitable for optimal growth, plants continue to store NSCs. This storage may be due to passive accumulation from sink-inhibited growth or active reserves that come at the expense of growth. The former pathway implies that NSCs may be a by-product of sink limitation, while the latter suggests a functional role of NSCs for use during poor conditions.
Methods

Using 13C pulse labelling, we traced the source of soluble sugars in stem and root organs during drought and everwet conditions for seedlings of two tropical tree species that differ in drought tolerance to estimate the relative allocation of NSCs stored prior to drought versus NSCs assimilated during drought. We monitored growth, stomatal conductance, stem water potential and NSC storage to assess a broad carbon response to drought.
Important Findings

We found that the drought-sensitive species had reduced growth, conserved NSC concentrations in leaf, stem and root organs and had a larger proportion of soluble sugars in stem and root organs that originated from pre-drought storage relative to seedlings in control conditions. In contrast, the drought-tolerant species maintained growth and stem and root NSC concentrations but had reduced leaf NSCs concentrations with a larger proportion of stem and root soluble sugars originated from freshly assimilated photosynthates relative to control seedlings. These results suggest the drought-sensitive species passively accumulated NSCs during water deficit due to growth inhibition, while the drought-tolerant species actively responded to water deficit by allocating NSCs to stem and root organs. These strategies seem correlated with baseline maximum growth rates, which supports previous research suggesting a trade-off between growth and drought tolerance while providing new evidence for the importance of plasticity in NSC allocation during drought.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Uncontrolled Keywords:Plant Science, Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 August 2020
Deposited On:19 Nov 2020 13:13
Last Modified:19 Nov 2020 13:13
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1752-993X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtaa017

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