In the 20th century, annual mean temperatures in the European Alps rose by almost 1 K and are predicted to rise further, increasing the impact of temperature on alpine plants. The role of light in the heat hardening of plants is still not fully understood. Here, the alpine dwarf shrub Vaccinium gaultherioides was exposed in situ to controlled short‐term heat spells (150 min with leaf temperatures 43–49°C) and long‐term heat waves (7 days, 30°C) under different irradiation intensities. Lethal leaf temperatures (LT50) were calculated. Low solar irradiation [max. 250 photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD)] during short‐term heat treatments mitigated the heat stress, shown by reduced leaf tissue damage and higher Fv/Fm (potential quantum efficiency of photosystem 2) than in darkness. The increase in xanthophyll cycle activity and ascorbate concentration was more pronounced under low light, and free radical scavenging activity increased independent of light conditions. During long‐term heat wave exposure, heat tolerance increased from 3.7 to 6.5°C with decreasing mean solar irradiation intensity (585–115 PPFD). Long‐term exposure to heat under low light enhanced heat hardening and increased photosynthetic pigment, dehydroascorbate and violaxanthin concentration. In conclusion, V. gaultherioides is able to withstand temperatures of around 50°C, and its heat hardening can be enhanced by low light during both short‐ and long‐term heat treatment. Data showing the specific role of light during short‐ and long‐term heat exposure and the potential risk of lethal damage in alpine shrubs as a result of rising temperature are discussed.
Physiologia Plantarum – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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