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Tolerance strategies of two Mediterranean native xerophytes under fluoride pollution in Tunisia


A field study was conducted along a fluorine gradient of soil pollution in Tunisia from Gabes, the most polluted site, to Smara, the reference site. Variations of fluoride (F) concentrations in soils were detected over 1 year in Gabes, Skhira, and Smara. F concentrations in the aerial part of two native plant species, i.e., Erodium glaucophyllum and Rhanterium suaveolens, were above the usual background concentrations. Bioaccumulation factors ranged from 0.08 to 1.3. With F concentrations in aerial parts up to 355 mg kg−1, both species may be described as F accumulators. Both species showed an earlier vegetative growth in Gabes than in Smara. However, some difference between their strategies could be observed, i.e., E. glaucophyllum shortening the period of its vegetative growth with an escape strategy and R. suaveolens decreasing its ratio of alive/dead parts potentially lowering the F toxicity by storage in dead cells. However, at a tissue level, mechanisms of tolerance were similar. Leaf section micrographs of both species showed a higher calcium accumulation in leaf midveins at Gabes than at Smara, confirming the role of calcium in plant F tolerance strategies.

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The authors thank Lefi El Kadri for his help in harvesting and sampling in the field and are grateful to Alain Tonetto for his help in the use of SEM coupled with EDAX. We thank the Groupe Chimique Tunisien, in particular the Direction Centrale de la Recherche, for its assistance and logistical support in carrying out this study. The authors would also like to thank Michael Paul for revising the English of this text and are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions that helped to improve the quality of the manuscript.


This study was partly funded by the Action Intégrée Franco-Tunisienne of the French Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes (EGIDE UTIQUE 2012–2014) and the Tunisian Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur, de la Recherche Scientifique (UR 11ES71) entitled: “Réponse écophysiologique de la végétation naturelle vis-à-vis de la pollution atmosphérique fluorée, Tunisie.”

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Correspondence to Isabelle Laffont-Schwob.

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Boukhris, A., Laffont-Schwob, I., Folzer, H. et al. Tolerance strategies of two Mediterranean native xerophytes under fluoride pollution in Tunisia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 34753–34764 (2018).

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  • Calcium accumulation
  • Erodium glaucophyllum
  • Rhanterium suaveolens
  • Vegetative growth
  • Alive/dead part ratio
  • Escape effect