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Morphological and photosynthetic physiological characteristics of Saussurea salsa in response to flooding in salt marshes of Xiao Sugan Lake, Gansu, China

LI Qun1 ZHAO Cheng-Zhang1 WANG Ji-Wei1 WEN Jun1 LI Zi-Qin1 MA Jun-Yi1

(1.College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Research Center of Wetland Resources Protection and Industrial Development Engineering of Gansu Province, Lanzhou, China 730070)

【Abstract】Aims The response of plant leaf functional traits to flooding in salt marshes is not only helpful in exploring the internal correlation between leaf plasticity mechanism and photosynthetic characteristics, but also of vital significance for gaining a deep understanding on the stress resistance strategies of plants in salt marsh wetlands. The aim of this study was to investigate the responses of leaf functional traits of Saussurea salsa to flooding with the changes of water-logging durations. Methods The research site was located in provincial migratory bird nature reserve (39.22°–39.35°N, 94.45°–94.59°E) in Xiao Sugan Lake, Gansu Province, China. A sampling belt was selected from the edge of the lakeshore to the end of the perennial tidewater line in the low-lying area along the north side of Xiao Sugan Lake. The duration of water-logging in the salt marsh wetland was measured based on the water level marked by the flood rise and retreat marks in Xiao Sugan Lake over the years. The sample belt was divided into three plots according to the water-logging duration: low flooding area (water-logging duration: 30–90 days), medium flooding area (water-logging duration: 90–150 days), and deep flooding area (water-logging duration: 150–210 days). Six subplots (2 m × 2 m) of S. salsa were selected from each of the three plots, and thus a total of 18 subplots were included in this study. We investigated the population traits of S. salsa, soil moisture, and soil electrical conductivity (EC). Six plants per subplot were selected for measurements of photosynthesis and chlorophyll fluorescence. The leaf samples collected from each of the six plants were taken to the laboratory for measurements of leaf traits (leaf area, thickness, dry mass, and chlorophyll content). Important findings The results showed that S. salsa changed the covariation strategy of leaf morphology and photosynthesis with the extension of water-logging duration. In the low flooding area, S. salsa adopted the fleshy lobular pattern with small specific leaf area (SLA), high photochemical efficiency of photosynthetic system II (PSII) [Y(II)], and low quantum yield of regulated energy dissipation [Y(NPQ)]. However, the S. salsa growing in the deep flooding area adopted a completely opposite covariation strategy in leaf morphology and photosynthesis compared with that grew in the low flooding area. We observed significant correlations between SLA and Y(II), between photochemical quenching (QP) and Y(NPQ), as well as significant positive correlations of the quantum yield of non-regulated energy dissipation [Y(NO)] with chlorophyll a content (Ca) and chlorophyll b content (Cb) in all of the three plots. Under the influence of the spatio-temporal evolution pattern of still water in the flooded area of Xiao Sugan Lake, the S. salsa population achieved the balance of the photosynthetic carbon budget by changing the leaf morphological traits, such as leaf area, leaf thickness, and SLA, and timely adjusting the photosynthetic characteristics, such as Y(NPQ) and Y(II).

【Keywords】 leaf traits; specific leaf area; actual photochemical efficiency of PSII; Saussurea salsa; Xiao Sugan Lake;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (41861009 and 41461013)

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This Article



Vol 43, No. 08, Pages 685-696

August 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Materials and methods
  • 2 Results
  • 3 Discussion
  • 4 Conclusions
  • References