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Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Permutation and Survival of Caralluma Species (Apocynaceae) in Arid Habitats

Keywords: Apocynaceae , Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) , CAM-idling , Caralluma , chlorophyll fluorescence , diffusive conductance , stomata

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Abstract:

Several species of the stem succulent Caralluma (Apocynaceae) are abundant perennials in arid regions of the Arabian Peninsula. These arid regions have a short wet season with erratic rainfall and are characterized by harsh climatic conditions of high temperature, high evaporation and sand storms. Work presented in this paper aimed at investigating importance of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) for survival of three Caralluma species in their natural habitat. Investigations involved studying stomatal characteristics, stomatal diffusive conductance, chlorophyll fluorescence, and CAM in three species of Caralluma, namely C. acutangula (Decne.) N.E.Br., C. edulis (Edgew.) Benth. ex Hook.f., and C. subulata (Forssk.) Decne. Microscopic examination revealed a pattern of stomatal characteristics typical of CAM plants in these three Caralluma species. Results showed that these three Caralluma species were obligate CAM plants exhibiting this mode of photosynthesis during both the wet and the dry seasons. Under protracted water stress during the long dry season very low values of stomatal diffusive conductance and dampening of CAM acidification-deacidification cycles denoted the tendency of these three Caralluma species to shift from the obligate CAM physiotype to CAM-idling mode. Chlorophyll fluorescence measurements indicated that protracted water stress induced a reduction in Photosystem II (PSII) antenna efficiency and quantum yield in the three studied Caralluma species. This reduction of PSII activity occurred in concomitance with a marked rise in non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence denoting operation of non-photochemical energy dissipating mechanisms known to be important for photoprotection of the photosynthetic apparatus.

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