High heat tolerance in plants from the Andean highlands: Implications for paramos in a warmer world

Autoři: Indira V. Leon-Garcia aff001;  Eloisa Lasso aff001
Působiště autorů: Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia aff001;  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá, República de Panamá aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(11)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224218


Tropical plant species are expected to have high heat tolerance reflecting phenotypic adjustments to warm regions or their evolutionary adaptation history. However, tropical highland specialists adapted to the colder temperatures found in the highlands, where short and prostrated vegetation decouples plants from ambient conditions, could exhibit different upper thermal limits than those of their lowland counterparts. Here we evaluated leaf heat tolerance of 21 tropical alpine paramo species to determine: 1) whether species with restricted distribution (i.e., highland specialists) have lower heat tolerance and are more vulnerable to warming than species with widespread distribution; 2) whether different growth forms have different heat tolerance; and 3) whether species height (i.e., microhabitat) influences its heat tolerance. We quantified heat tolerance by evaluating T50, which is the temperature that causes a reduction in 50% of initial Fv/Fm values and reflects an irreversible damage to the photosynthetic apparatus. Additionally, we estimated the thermal safety margins as the difference between T50 and the maximum leaf temperature registered for the species. All species presented high T50 values ranging between 45.4°C and 53.9°C, similar to those found for tropical lowland species. Heat tolerance was not correlated with species distributions or plant height, but showed a strong relationship with growth form, with rosettes having the highest heat tolerance. Thermal safety margins ranged from 12.1 to 31.0°C. High heat tolerance and broad thermal safety margins suggest low vulnerability of paramo species to warming as long as plants are capable of regulating the leaf temperature within this threshold. Whether paramo plants would be able to regulate leaf temperature if drought episodes become more frequent and transpirational cooling is compromised is the next question that needs to be answered.

Klíčová slova:

Climate change – Grasses – Leaves – Plant physiology – Plants – Seedlings – Shrubs – Tropical ecosystems


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