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Muri, Switzerland

Kammer P.M.,IS1 Biology | Steiner J.S.,IS1 Biology | Schob C.,University of Zurich
Alpine Botany | Year: 2015

The altitudinal gradient involves changes of the partial pressures of atmospheric gases such as CO2. This omnipresent phenomenon likely represents an evolutionary selective agent. We asked whether high altitude plant species had evolved specific response strategies to cope with high altitude pressure conditions. Plants of the high altitude species Arabis alpina and the low altitude species Arabidopsis thaliana were cultivated in growth chambers with high altitude pressure conditions (corresponding to 3000 m a.s.l.) and low altitude conditions (560 m). In both species, high altitude conditions resulted in the narrowing of stomatal aperture as well as a decrease in leaf area and weight. A. alpina produced significantly more stomata under high altitude conditions compared to low altitude conditions, while A. thaliana did not. Under low altitude conditions, however, stomatal density of A. alpina was smaller compared to A. thaliana. The increase in stomatal density of A. alpina was strongly related to the decrease in the partial pressure of CO2 under high altitude conditions. Thus, the adaptation of the high altitude plant A. alpina to high altitude pressure conditions does not consist in a genetically fixed elevated stomatal density but in a different response strategy of stomatal development to environmental factors compared to the lowland plant A. thaliana. A. alpina developed stomata largely uncoupled from other environmental factors than CO2. The increased stomatal density of A. alpina may ensure an optimal CO2 supply during the periods of favourable weather conditions for photosynthesis that are relatively rare and short in the alpine life zone. © 2015, Swiss Botanical Society.

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