We hypothesized that solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation would protect silver birch seedlings from the detrimental effects of water stress through a coordinated suite of trait responses, including morphological acclimation, improved control of water loss through gas exchange and hydraulic sufficiency. To better understand how this synergetic interaction works, plants were grown in an experiment under nine treatment combinations attenuating ultraviolet-A and ultraviolet-B (UVB) from solar radiation together with differential watering to create water-deficit conditions.
In seedlings under water deficit, UV attenuation reduced height growth, leaf production and leaf length compared with seedlings receiving the full spectrum of solar radiation, whereas the growth and morphology of well-watered seedlings was largely unaffected by UV attenuation. There was an interactive effect of the treatment combination on water relations, which was more apparent as a change in the water potential at which leaves wilted or plants died than through differences in gas exchange. This suggests that changes occur in the cell wall elastic modulus or accumulation of osmolites in cells under UVB.
Overall, the strong negative effects of water deficit are partially ameliorated by solar UV radiation, whereas well-watered silver birch seedlings are slightly disadvantaged by the solar UV radiation they receive.
Robson, T., Hartikainen, S.M. and Aphalo, P.J., 2015. How does solar ultraviolet‐B radiation improve drought tolerance of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) seedlings?. Plant, cell & environment, 38(5), pp.953-967.
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