, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 147-152

Cold hardiness and supercooling along an altitudinal gradient in andean giant rosette species

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Summary

Factors affecting supercooling capacity and cold hardiness were investigated in leaves of ten giant rosette species of the genus Espeletia (Compositae). These species grow along a 2,800–4,200 m elevation gradient in the Venezuelan Andes. In this high tropical environment, freezing frequently occurs every night, particularly above 3,300 m, but lasts for only a few hours. Supercooling capacty is linearly related to leaf water potential (Ψ L ) in all species; however supercooling is more responsive to Ψ L changes in Espeletia species from high paramos. The rate of change in the species-specific supercooling point and the rate of change of average annual minimum temperature along the elevation and climatic gradient follow the same trend (approximately -0.6 K per 100 m elevation). At a given elevation, the expanded leaves of the different species tend to supercool 8–10 K below minimum air temperatures. Experimentally-induced freezing was accompanied by the formation of intracellular ice and tissue damage. The relative apoplastic water content (RAWC) of the leaves, which may influence the ice nucleation rate or the facility by which ice propagates, was determined by pressure-volume methods. Species from higher sites tend to exhibit lower RAWC (2%–7%) than species from lower sites (7%–36%). A causal relationship between supercooling capacity and RAWC is suggested. In the high tropical Andes, the temperature oxotherm plateau of Espeletia leaves seems to be sufficiently fow to avoid freezing.