Ecophysiology and biomechanics of Equisetum giganteum in South America

Chad Eric Husby, Florida International University

Abstract

Equisetum giganteum L., a giant horsetail, is one of the largest living members of an ancient group of non-flowering plants with a history extending back 377 million years. Its hollow upright stems grow to over 5 m in height. Equisetum giganteum occupies a wide range of habitats in southern South America. Colonies of this horsetail occupy large areas of the Atacama river valleys, including those with sufficiently high groundwater salinity to significantly reduce floristic diversity. The purpose of this research was to study the ecophysiological and biomechanical properties that allow E. giganteum to successfully colonize a range of habitats, varying in salinity and exposure. Stem ecophysiological behavior was measured via steady state porometry (stomatal conductance), thermocouple psychrometry (water potential), chlorophyll fluorescence, and ion specific electrodes (xylem fluid solutes). Stem biomechanical properties were measured via a 3-point bending apparatus and cross sectional imaging. Equisetum giganteum stems exhibit mechanical characteristics of semi-self-supporting plants, requiring mutual support or support of other vegetation when they grow tall. The mean elastic moduli (4.3 Chile, 4.0 Argentina) of E. giganteum in South America is by far the largest measured in any living horsetail. Stomatal behavior of E. giganteum is consistent with that of typical C3 vascular plants, although absolute values of maximum late morning stomatal conductance are very low in comparison to typical plants from mesic habitats. The internode stomata exhibit strong light response. However, the environmental sensitivity of stomatal conductance appeared less in young developing stems, possibly due to higher cuticular conductance. Exclusion of sodium (Na) and preferential accumulation of potassium (K) at the root level appears to be the key mechanism of salinity tolerance in E. giganteum. Overall stomatal conductance and chlorophyll fluorescence were little affected by salinity, ranging from very low levels up to half strength seawater. This suggests a high degree of salinity stress tolerance. The capacity of E. giganteum to adapt to a wide variety of environments in southern South America has allowed it to thrive despite tremendous environmental changes during their long tenure on Earth. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Botany|Biology, Plant Physiology

Recommended Citation

Chad Eric Husby, "Ecophysiology and biomechanics of Equisetum giganteum in South America" (January 1, 2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3380836.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3380836

Files over 15MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."

Share

COinS