Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 2189–2205 | Cite as

Ecophysiological response of native and invasive Spartina species to extreme temperature events in Mediterranean marshes

  • B. DuarteEmail author
  • J. C. Marques
  • I. Caçador
Invasive spartina


The recent IPCC WG2 5th Assessment Report (IPCC 2014), notes an increase in the frequency and duration of extreme climatic events, especially for the Mediterranean region. Together with climate change, the invasion of natural communities by non-indigenous species (NIS) constitutes a serious threat to biodiversity. One of these NIS is the American Spartina patens, now present in Western European marshes. The present study aims to understand the biochemical and photochemical responses of S. patens compared with S. maritima under extreme temperature events. Under normal and extreme heat conditions, S. patens had a higher photosynthetic efficiency (α), compared with cold wave events, where the native S. maritima was far more efficient. This reduced photosynthetic efficiency was mostly due to a decrease in the connectivity between photosystem II (PSII) antennae. This was accompanied by severe damage to the oxygen-evolving complex of PSII. On the other hand, S. patens oxygen evolving complexes (OECs) seem to be temperature insensitive. The light absorption capacity was maintained due to a higher net rate of reaction centre (RC) closure as a counteractive measure of the reduced number of RC, especially in S. maritima. The loss of connectivity between PSII antennae and damage in OECs under heat stress leads to a severe reduction in the maximum yield for photochemistry enhanced by the low probability of each absorbed quanta to produce electronic work. However, while S. maritima presents high energy losses under heat stress, S. patens developed efficient quenching mechanisms under thermal stress, through auroxanthin. In S. patens, cold wave-treated individuals also displayed a very active line of enzymatic defences for reactive oxygen species scavenging. In fact, only cold treated individuals of this species presented higher activities of anti-oxidant enzymes, revealing some degree of adaptation to this new environment. In contrast, in S. maritima the exposure to extreme heat periods led, in most cases, to a decrease in the enzymatic defences, leaving the cell prone to oxidative damage. In summary, S. patens appears to have a higher fitness for the incoming climatic scenarios, being more tolerant to heat stress, while S. maritima will have its photobiological fitness decreased. This will impose a shift in the salt marsh biodiversity, favouring the non-indigenous S. patens expansion.


Non-indigenous species Photo-system thermo-stability Oxidative stress Ecophysiological fitness 



The authors would like to thank to the “Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)” for funding the research in the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE) throughout the project UID/MAR/04292/2013 and this specific work throughout the ECOSAM project (PTDC/AAC-CLI/104085/2008). B. Duarte investigation was supported by FCT throughout a Ph.D. Grant (SFRH/BD/75951/2011) and throughout the COST action TD1209 (COST-STSM-TD1209-16451).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Sciences, MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.c/o Department of Zoology, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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