Photosynthetic responses of selected Antarctic plants to solar radiation in the southern maritime Antarctic

The effects of UV-B exclusion and enhancement of solar radiation on photosynthesis of the two phanerogams which occur in the maritime Antarctic, Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis, and the moss Sanionia uncinats were investigated. Data on air temperature and solar radiation illustrate a drastic seasonal variation. Daily O3 column mean values and UV-B measured at ground level document the occurrence of the O3“hole” in the spring of 1997, with a concomitant increase in UV-B. The grass, D. antarctica, exhibited a broad temperature optimum for photosynthesis between 10–25°C while photosynthesis did not saturate even at high irradiance. The high water use efficiencies measured in the grass may be one of the features explaining the presence of this species in the maritime Antarctic. The net photosynthesis response to intercellular CO2 (A/ci) for D. antarctica was typical of a C3 plant. Exposure to a biologically effective UV-B irradiance of 0.74 W M-2 did not result in any significant change in either the maximum rate of photosynthesis at saturating CO2 and light, or in the initial carboxylation efficiency of Rubisco. (Vc,max). Furthermore while ambient (or enhanced) solar UV-B did not affect photochemical yield, measured in the field, of C. quitensis and D. antarctica, UV-B enhancement did affect negatively photochemical yield in S. uncinata. In D. antarctica plants, exposure to UV-B at low irradiances elicited increased flavonoid synthesis. The observed effects of UV-B enhancement on the moss (decreased photochemical yield) and the grass (increase in flavonoids) require further, separate investigation.


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Authors: Montiel, Pedro, Smith, Andrew, Keiller, Don

1 January, 1999
Polar Research / 18
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