, Volume 212, Issue 9, pp 1429-1440

Recovery of photosynthetic capacity in Vaccinium vitis-idaea during mild spells in winter

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Abstract

Recent studies suggest that evergreen plants may maintain their photosynthetic capacity through the winter. Since mild winters are predicted to be more frequent in the future, the metabolic activity of plants is also likely to increase. The aim of the present study was to assess how various environmental factors, such as temperature, photoperiod and preceding frost, affect the recovery of photosynthesis during a mild spell in winter. The recovery of photosynthesis was studied in a series of growth chamber experiments where the overwintering of lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) was interrupted by an intermittent warm spell of 1 week during different phases of winter. Rapid activation was observed in all the experiments during the first 3–4 days. No obvious effects of the phase of winter or photoperiod on the recovery of photosynthesis were observed, but a severe freezing treatment prior to the warm spell retarded the recovery significantly. Once recovered, however, lingonberry was able to maintain high rates of photosynthesis even at near-freezing temperatures, which prevail in their natural sub-nivean environment. The apparent quantum yield of photosynthesis remained high through the winter for lingonberry. This may prove advantageous for evergreen dwarf shrubs which overwinter in dim environments under snow.