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Does plant colour matter? Wax accumulation as an indicator of decline in Juniperus thurifera

AutorEsteban, Raquel ; Fernández-Marín, Beatriz; Olano, José Miguel; Becerril, José M.; García-Plazaola, José I.
Palabras claveMediterranean
Xanthophyll cycle
Chlorophyll fluorescence
Fecha de publicación2014
EditorOxford University Press
CitaciónTree Physiology 34(3): 267-274 (2014)
ResumenThe photosynthesis in evergreen trees living in Mediterranean ecosystems is subjected to multiple climatic stresses due to water shortage and high temperatures during the summer and to low temperatures during the winter. Mediterranean perennials deploy different photoprotective mechanisms to prevent damage to the photosynthetic system. Wax accumulation in leaves is a primary response which by enhancing light scattering in the leaf surface reduces incident radiation in the mesophyll. The existence of high variability in wax accumulation levels between coexisting individuals of a species has a visual effect on colour that provides distinguishable green and glaucous phenotypes. We explored this variability in a Mediterranean evergreen tree Juniperus thurifera (L.) to evaluate the impact of epicuticular wax on optical and ecophysiological properties and on the abundance of photoprotective pigments throughout an annual cycle. Because of light attenuation by waxes, we expected that glaucous phenotypes would lower the need for photoprotective pigments. We evaluated the effect of phenotype and season on reflectance, defoliation levels, photochemical efficiency and photoprotective pigment contents in 20 green and 20 glaucous junipers. Contrary to our expectations, the results showed that glaucous trees suffered from a diminution in photochemical efficiency, but there was no reduction in photoprotective pigments. Differences between glaucous and green phenotypes were greater in winter, which is the most stressful season for this species. Glaucous individuals also showed the highest levels of leaf defoliation. The lower photochemical efficiency of glaucous trees, together with higher defoliation rates and equal or greater number of physiological photoprotective mechanisms, suggests that in spite of wax accumulation, glaucous trees suffer from more severe stress than green ones. This result suggests that changes in colouration in Mediterranean evergreens may be a decline indicator. © 2014 The Author.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1093/treephys/tpu006
issn: 1758-4469
e-issn: 1758-4469
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