Reproduction of Mountain Plants under Temperature Stress

Reproduction of Mountain Plants under Temperature Stress

During the growing season, mountain plants are exposed to large temperature fluctuations. On the one hand, with increasing altitude night frosts become more frequent; on the other hand, high irradiation on clear summer days can result in temperatures of up to 30 K above air temperature in prostrate plants. Earlier investigations have shown that, under moderate temperature stress, leaves of mountain plants are sufficiently frost and heat resistant. Following sudden cold spells or during extended hot weather periods, however, the threshold values for frost and heat injury can be reached or even exceeded. The extent to which reproductive organs (flower buds, flowers, immature and mature fruits with seeds) are endangered by extreme temperatures is largely unknown. As the reproductive phase is generally a very vulnerable phase, it can be expected that reproductive organs are at a higher risk of becoming frost and heat damaged than vegetative organs. If flowering and seed formation frequently fails, there are far-reaching consequences for the maintenance and the colonization potential of a species.
The present project investigates the temperature resistance of reproductive organs in different developmental phases in common mountain plants of the alpine and nival zone in the European Alps. Reproductive tissues of plant species reaching the upper distribution limit are expected to resist subzero temperatures better than they do in species from lower elevations, and vice versa, as plants from lower elevations are believed to be less sensitive to heat. Temperature resistance is an important key for the altitudinal range of a plant species and the potential to persist in a changing climate. 

Funding:
FWF P20010-B16

Personnel involved
Ursula Ladinig (PostDoc)
Jürgen Hacker (PostDoc)
Agnes Erler (Master Thesis)
Christian Anich (Master Thesis)
Johanna Wagner (Project Leader)
Gilbert Neuner (Second Project Leader) 

Publications:

  • HACKER J., LADINIG U., WAGNER J., NEUNER G. (2011): Inflorescences of alpine cushion plants freeze autonomously and may survive subzero temperatures by supercooling. Plant Science 180: 149-156.
  • NEUNER G., ERLER A., LADINIG U., HACKER J., WAGNER J. (2013): Frost resistance of reproductive tissues during various stages of development in high mountain plants. Physiologia Plantarum 147: 88-100.
  • LADINIG U., HACKER J., NEUNER G., WAGNER J. (2013): How endangered is sexual reproduction of high-mountain plants by summer frosts? – Frost resistance, frequency of frost events and risk assessment. Oecologia 171: 743-760.
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