Terrestrial plant species vary widely in their adaptation to (increasing) solar UV-B radiation. Among the various responses of higher plants to enhanced UV-B are increasing leaf thickness and increasing concentrations of UV-B absorbing compounds. In some (UV-B resistant) plant species increased leaf thickness and UV-B absorbance may form part of mechanisms protecting plants from UV-B damage. However, in UV-B sensitive plant species leaf thickness and UV-B absorbance may increase as well with enhanced UV-B radiation. In the latter case however, this response cannot prevent plant damage and disturbance. In the present field study the relationship between these plant parameters and a natural elevational UV-B gradient on the tropical island of Jamaica was described. Four plant species of the Blue Mountain Tropical Montane Forest, occurring on open forest sites along the roadside and paths were studied along an elevational gradient. Plant species studied are Redbush (Polygonum chinense), Wild ginger (Hedychium gardneranum), John Crow Bush (Bocconiafrutescens) and White clover (Trifolium repens). The elevational sites were at 800, 1000, 1200, 1400 and 1600 m above sea level. Leaf thickness was measured of leaves of intact plants around midday in the field. Leaf disks (5 mm) were sampled and extracted with a methanol/HC1 mixture. UV-B absorption of these leaf extracts was measured spectrophotometrically. For all species leaves from higher elevations were thicker than those from lower elevations. In addition, the absorption of UV-B of leaf extracts increased with increasing elevations. It is assumed that the calculated gradient of the UV-BBE from 800 m above sea level: 9.45 kJ m-2 day-1 to 9.75 kJ m-2 day-1 at 1600 m is related to the measured increase of leaf thickness and UV-B absorbing compounds.
The responsiveness of these plant parameters to the elevational gradient does not necessarily imply that the plant species are UV-B resistant. One possibility is that the species studied, which are growing on open, disturbed sites on the forest floor and along mountain-roads, are relatively sensitive to UV-B. In addition to clear sky conditions, mist and clouds occur frequently in this tropical mountane forest at Jamaica. Also, the low nutrient status of the soil (low pH, nutrient deficiency) and the high content of polyphenols in leaves of many plant species of the tropical montane rain forest may relate to the marked response of the species studied with increasing elevation.
- Leaf thickness
- Tropical montane cloud forest
- UV-B absorbing compounds
- UV-B radiation
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Rozema, J., Chardonnens, A., Tosserams, M., Hafkenscheid, R., Bruijnzeel, S. (1997). Leaf thickness and UV-B absorbing pigments of plants in relation to an elevational gradient along the Blue Mountains, Jamaica. In: Rozema, J., Gieskes, W.W.C., Van De Geijn, S.C., Nolan, C., De Boois, H. (eds) UV-B and Biosphere. Advances in vegetation science, vol 17. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-5718-6_14
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