Long-term structural canopy changes sustain net photosynthesis per ground area in high arctic Vaccinium uliginosum exposed to changes in near-ambient UV-B levels.

Kristine Stove Boesgaard, Kristian Rost Albert, Helge Ro-Poulsen, Anders Michelsen, Teis Nørgaard Mikkelsen, Niels M. Schmidt

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Full recovery of the ozone layer is not expected for several decades and consequently, the incoming level of solar ultraviolet-B (UV-B) will only slowly be reduced. Therefore to investigate the structural and photosynthetic responses to changes in solar UV-B we conducted a 5-year UV-B exclusion study in high arctic Greenland. During the growing season, the gas exchange (H(2) O and CO(2) ) and chlorophyll-a fluorescence were measured in Vaccinium uliginosum. The leaf dry weight, carbon, nitrogen, stable carbon isotope ratio, chlorophyll and carotenoid content were determined from a late season harvest. The net photosynthesis per leaf area was on average 22% higher in 61% reduced UV-B treatment across the season, but per ground area photosynthesis was unchanged. The leaf level increase in photosynthesis was accompanied by increased leaf nitrogen, higher stomatal conductance and F(v) /F(m) . There was no change in total leaf biomass, but reduction in total leaf area caused a pronounced reduction of specific leaf area and leaf area index in reduced UV-B. This demonstrates the structural changes to counterbalance the reduced plant carbon uptake seen per leaf area in ambient UV-B as the resulting plant carbon uptake per ground area was not affected. Thus, our understanding of long-term responses to UV-B reduction must take into account both leaf level processes as well as structural changes to understand the apparent robustness of plant carbon uptake per ground area. In this perspective, V. uliginosum seems able to adjust plant carbon uptake to the present amount of solar UV-B radiation in the High Arctic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysiologia Plantarum
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)540-550
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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