Ecophysiological studies on orchids of Madagascar: incidence and plasticity of crassulacean acid metabolism in species of the genus Angraecum Bory

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Abstract

The present study is an investigation on photosynthetic options in an orchid taxon and deals with the mainly epiphytes comprising genus Angraecum Bory. The incidence of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) in Angraecum species collected at various habitats in Madagascar was surveyed by analysis of stable carbon isotope composition (δ13C values). The values showed both inter- and intraspecific variability and suggest that in situ about 50% of the analysed species perform C3 photosynthesis, 20% moderate CAM (fixation of external CO2 during day-and night-time) and 30% pronounced CAM (CO2 uptake entirely during the night). The photosynthetic behaviour of the species indicated by the δ13C values was clearly related to the habitat from where the samples derived. In A. eburneum, A. sororium and particularly in A. sesquipedale the stable carbon isotope analysis was complemented by measurements of CAM performance under controlled conditions. The experiments with A. sesquipedale revealed that drought and temperature are important factors modulating CAM, whereas variation of the leaf-to-air water vapor pressure difference was less effective. Altogether, the results of the study support the view that the high biological adaptability and thus the ecological success of the genus Angraecum is largely based on genotypic diversity and intraspecific plasticity of the photosynthetic behaviour.

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