Contrasting effects of experiencing temporally heterogeneous light availability versus homogenous shading on plant subsequent responses to light conditions

BMC Plant Biol. 2023 May 3;23(1):232. doi: 10.1186/s12870-023-04229-4.


Temporally heterogeneous environments is hypothesized to correlate with greater plasticity of plants, which has rarely been supported by direct evidence. To address this issue, we subjected three species from different ranges of habitats to a first round of alternating full light and heavy shading (temporally heterogeneous light experience), constant moderate shading and full light conditions (temporally homogeneous light experiences, control) and a second round of light-gradient treatments. We measured plant performance in a series of morphological, biomass, physiological and biochemical traits at the end of each round. Compared to constant full light experience, temporally heterogeneous light conditions induced immediate active biochemical responses (in the first round) with improved late growth in biomass (during the second round); constant moderate shading experience increased photosynthetic physiological and biomass performances of plants in early response, and decreased their late growth in biomass. The karst endemic species of Kmeria septentrionalis showed greater improvement in late growth of biomass and lower decrease in biochemical performance, due to early heterogeneous experience, compared to the non-karst species of Lithocarpus glaber and the karst adaptable species of Celtis sinensis. Results suggested plants will prefer to produce morphological and physiological responses that are less reversible and more costly in the face of more reliable environmental cues at early stage in spite of decreased future growth potential, but to produce immediate biochemical responses for higher late growth potential when early environmental cues are less reliable, to avoid the loss of high costs and low profits. Typical karst species should be more able to benefit from early temporally heterogeneous experience, due to long-term adaptation to karst habitats of high environmental heterogeneity and low resource availability.

PMID:37131187 | PMC:PMC10155447 | DOI:10.1186/s12870-023-04229-4


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