We assessed the influence of springtime solar UV-B radiation that was naturally enhanced during several days due to ozone depletion on biomass production and photosynthesis of vascular plants along the Antarctic Peninsula. Naturally growing plants of Colobanthus quitensis (Kunth) Bartl. and Deschampsia antarctica Desv. were potted and grown under filters that absorbed or transmitted most solar UV-B. Plants exposed to solar UV-B from mid-October to early January produced 11% to 22% less total, as well as above ground biomass, and 24% to 31% less total leaf area. These growth reductions did not appear to be associated with reductions in photosynthesis per se: Although rates of photosynthetic O2 evolution were reduced on a chlorophyll and a dry-mass basis, on a leaf area basis they were not affected by UV-B exposure. Leaves on plants exposed to UV-B were denser, probably thicker, and had higher concentrations of photosynthetic and UV-B absorbing pigments. We suspect that the development of thicker leaves containing more photosynthetic and screening pigments allowed these plants to maintain their photosynthetic rates per unit leaf area. Exposure to UV-B led to reductions in quantum yield of photosystem II, based on fluorescence measurements of adaxial leaf surfaces, and we suspect that UV-B impaired photosynthesis in the upper mesophyll of leaves. Because the ratio of variable to maximal fluorescence, as well as the initial slope of the photosynthetic light response, were unaffected by UV-B exposure, we suggest that impairments in photosynthesis in the upper mesophyll were associated with light-independent enzymatic, rather than photosystem II, limitations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science