(Poly)phenolic compounds in pollen and spores of antarctic plants as indicators of solar UV-B: a new proxy for the reconstruction of past solar UV-B?

The morphology, size and characteristics of the pollen of the plant species Antarctic hairgrass (Deschampsia antarctica, Poaceae) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis, Caryophyllaceae) are described by scanning electron microscopy and light microscopy. Based on the number of pores the pollen of Colobanthus quitensis is classified as periporate or polypantorate, while that of Deschampsia antarctica is monoporate. Pollen of Vicia faba plants, exposed to enhanced UV-B (10.6 kJ m–2 day–1 UV-BBE) in a greenhouse, showed an increased content of UV-B absorbing compounds. There was also an increase of UV-B absorbing compounds in response to exposure to UV-A. By sequential chemical extraction three `compartments' of UV-B absorbance of pollen can be distinguished: a cytoplasmic fraction consisting of, e.g., flavonoids (acid-methanol extractable), a wall-bound fraction, consisting of, e.g., ferulic acid (NaOH extractable) and aromatic groups in the bioresistant polymer sporopollenin possibly consisting of, e.g., para-coumaric acid monomers (fraction remaining after acetolysis). The sporopollenin fraction in the pollen of Helleborus foetidus showed considerable UV-B absorbance (280–320 nm). There is evidence that enhanced solar UV-B induces increased UV-B absorbance (of sporopollenin) in pollen and spores of mosses, which may be preserved in the fossil record. As there are no instrumental records of solar UV-B in the Antarctic before 1970 and no instrumental records of stratospheric ozone over the Antarctic before 1957, the use of UV-B absorbing polyphenolics in pollen (and spores) as bio-indicator, or proxy of solar UV-B, may allow reconstruction of pre-ozone hole and subrecent UV-B and stratospheric ozone levels. Pollen and spores from herbarium specimens and from frozen moss banks (about 5000–10000 years old) in the Antarctic may, therefore, represent a valuable archive of historical UV-B levels.


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Authors: Rozema, J., Noordijk, A.J., Broekman, R.A., van Beem, A., Meijkamp, B.M., de Bakker, N.V.J., van de Staaij, J.W.M., Stroetenga, M., Bohncke, S.J.P., Konert, M., Kars, S., Peat, Helen ORCIDORCID record for Helen Peat, Smith, R.I.L., Convey, Peter ORCIDORCID record for Peter Convey

On this site: Helen Peat, Peter Convey
1 January, 2001
Plant Ecology / 154
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