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Photosynthesis and Growth of Pennisetum centrasiaticum (C4) is Superior to Calamagrostis pseudophragmites (C3) during Drought and Recovery

1
Naiman Desertification Research Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
2
Laboratory of Stress Ecophysiology and Biotechnology, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
3
Department of Geography, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
4
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Ecology and Resources Use of the Mongolian Plateau, Hohhot 010021, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Plants 2020, 9(8), 991; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9080991
Received: 24 June 2020 / Revised: 26 July 2020 / Accepted: 31 July 2020 / Published: 4 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Stress and Desiccation Tolerance in Plants)
Global warming and changes in rainfall patterns may put many ecosystems at risk of drought. These stressors could be particularly destructive in arid systems where species are already water-limited. Understanding plant responses in terms of photosynthesis and growth to drought and rewatering is essential for predicting ecosystem-level responses to climate change. Different drought responses of C3 and C4 species could have important ecological implications affecting interspecific competition and distribution of plant communities in the future. For this study, C4 plant Pennisetum centrasiaticum and C3 plant Calamagrostis pseudophragmites were subjected to progressive drought and subsequent rewatering in order to better understand their differential responses to regional climate changes. We tracked responses in gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, biomass as well as soil water status in order to investigate the ecophysiological responses of these two plant functional types. Similar patterns of photosynthetic regulations were observed during drought and rewatering for both psammophytes. They experienced stomatal restriction and nonstomatal restriction successively during drought. Photosynthetic performance recovered to the levels in well-watered plants after rewatering for 6–8 days. The C4 plant, P. centrasiaticum, exhibited the classic CO2-concentrating mechanism and more efficient thermal dissipation in the leaves, which confers more efficient CO2 assimilation and water use efficiency, alleviating drought stress, maintaining their photosynthetic advantage until water deficits became severe and quicker recovery after rewatering. In addition, P. centrasiaticum can allocate a greater proportion of root biomass in case of adequate water supply and a greater proportion of above-ground biomass in case of drought stress. This physiological adaptability and morphological adjustment underline the capacity of C4 plant P. centrasiaticum to withstand drought more efficiently and recover upon rewatering more quickly than C. pseudophragmites and dominate in the Horqin Sandy Land. View Full-Text
Keywords: psammophytes; photosynthesis; biomass; drought; recovery psammophytes; photosynthesis; biomass; drought; recovery
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MDPI and ACS Style

Luo, Y.; Zhao, X.; Allington, G.R.H.; Wang, L.; Huang, W.; Zhang, R.; Luo, Y.; Xu, Z. Photosynthesis and Growth of Pennisetum centrasiaticum (C4) is Superior to Calamagrostis pseudophragmites (C3) during Drought and Recovery. Plants 2020, 9, 991.

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