Ecophysiology of Endangered Plant Species Saussurea esthonica: Effect of Mineral Nutrient Availability and Soil Moisture

Plants (Basel). 2023 Feb 16;12(4):888. doi: 10.3390/plants12040888.


Saussurea esthonica is an endangered plant species typical for wet inland habitats such as calcareous fens. Due to its limited population size and distribution, non-invasive sampling of is important in the research of S. esthonica. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of mineral nutrient availability and substrate moisture on the growth, physiological status, and mineral nutrition of S. esthonica. The non-destructive measurement of physiological parameters was performed in native habitats during three vegetative seasons, followed by two experiments in controlled conditions. Soil at the two Estonian sites had a relatively larger similarity in the composition of plant-available mineral nutrients in comparison to the two Latvian sites. The chlorophyll a fluorescence parameter Performance Index correlated with the total precipitation in the respective month before measurement, but no significant relationship with other environmental variables was found. For mineral nutrient experiments, plants were grown in four substrates with different mineral nutrient composition, resembling that of soil at different S. esthonica sites. Plant growth and physiological indices were significantly affected by the mineral composition of the substrate. Differences in leaf and root mineral nutrient concentrations of S. esthonica plants in part reflected differences in substrate mineral concentration. To evaluate the effect of soil moisture on growth and photosynthesis-associated parameters of S. esthonica, plants were cultivated in “Pope+” substrate at four different moisture treatments (dry, normal, wet, and waterlodged). The most intense growth of S. esthonica plants was evident in waterlodged conditions, which decreased with a decrease in soil moisture. The biomass of leaves increased by 106% and that of the roots increased by 72% as soil moisture increased from dry to normal. For waterlodged plants, leaf biomass increased by 263% and root biomass increased by 566%, in comparison to that for plants cultivated in dry substrate. Substrate drying had a more negative effect on the growth of S. esthonica plants in comparison to that of waterlodging, and this can be directly linked to prevalent hydrological conditions of an alkaline fen habitat native to the species. Therefore, the preservation of the natural water regime in natural habitats is critical to the conservation of the species.

PMID:36840236 | PMC:PMC9965748 | DOI:10.3390/plants12040888


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