Alpine Botany

, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 123–135 | Cite as

Photoprotective strategies against drought are depending on the elevation provenance in Phacelia secunda

  • Carolina Hernández-FuentesEmail author
  • Rafael E. Coopman
  • Lohengrin A. Cavieres
  • León A. Bravo
Original Article


The central Chilean Andes are located in a Mediterranean-type climate zone, characterized by dry summers and high irradiance. This creates a contrasting elevational gradient because higher elevations get more solid precipitation and lower temperatures, resulting in higher soil humidity along the growing season compared with severe drought at lower elevations. Therefore, species with wide elevational distributions, such as Phacelia secunda, must have developed specific adaptations to cope with contrasting severity of drought stress-induced photoinhibition at different elevations. We hypothesize that P. secunda from lower elevation, is more tolerant to drought stress-induced photo-damage than plants from high elevation. This higher tolerance will be associated to a higher diversity of photoprotective strategies in plants that naturally suffers severe drought every growing season. To test this hypothesis, plants from 2700 and 3600 m in the central Chilean Andes were grown under the common garden and then subjected to water restriction. We measured stress indicators, photochemistry of PSII and PSI and estimate alternative electron sinks. Drought affected P. secunda photosynthetic performance differentially depending on the elevation of provenance. Plants from lower elevation exhibited higher drought tolerance than higher elevation ones. This was related to higher levels of heat dissipation and alternative electron sinks exhibited by plants from lower elevation under drought stress. We concluded that plants naturally subjected to recurrent drought are better adapted to respond to drought stress using additional photochemical photoprotective mechanisms and confirm the role of alternative electron sinks ameliorating photodamage.


Photoinhibition Cyclic electron flow Photorespiration Mehler reaction Water stress 



The research was supported by Fondecyt 1060910, CONICYT AFB170008 and NEXER-UFRO (NXR17-0002). Authors thank Dan Harris-Pascal for English corrections in the manuscript.

Declaration of authorship

C.H.F and L.A.B conceived the idea, and all authors made substantial contributions to the study design. All authors contributed to acquisition of data and C.H.F and R.E.C led analyses. C.H.F led manuscript preparation with substantial critical and editorial input from all authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This study is in compliance with ethical standards and the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

35_2019_221_MOESM1_ESM.docx (166 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 167 kb)


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© Swiss Botanical Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio ECOBIOSIS, Departamento de Botánica, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y OceanográficasUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  2. 2.Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)SantiagoChile
  3. 3.Forest Ecophysiology Laboratory, Conservation, Biodiversity and Territory InstituteUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  4. 4.Laboratorio de Fisiología y Biología Molecular Vegetal, Instituto de Agroindustria, Departamento de Ciencias Agronómicas y Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias y Forestales, Center of Plant, Soil Interaction and Natural Resources Biotechnology, Scientific and Technological Bioresource NucleusUniversidad de La FronteraTemucoChile

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