Physiologia plantarum vol:135 issue:2 pages:174-184
Crassulacean acid metabolism requires a substantial investment of resources into storage carbohydrates to account for nocturnal CO2 uptake, thereby restricting carbohydrate partitioning to other metabolic activities, including dark respiration, growth and acclimation to abiotic stress. Flexible modulation of carbon flow to the different competing sinks under changing environmental conditions is considered a key determinant for the growth, productivity and ecological success of the CAM pathway. The aim of the present study was to examine how shifts in carbohydrate partitioning could assure maintenance of photosynthetic integrity and a positive carbon balance under conditions of increasing water deprivation in CAM species. Measurements of gas exchange, leaf water relations, malate, starch and soluble sugar (glucose, fructose and sucrose) contents were made in leaves of the CAM bromeliad Aechmea ‘Maya’ over a 6 month period of drought and subsequently over a 2 month period of recovery from drought. Results indicated that short-term influences of water stress were minimized by elevating the level of respiratory recycling and carbohydrate pools were maintained at the expense of export for growth whilst providing a comparable nocturnal carbon gain to that in well-watered control plants. Longer-term drought resulted in a disproportionate depletion of key carbohydrate reserves. Sucrose, which was of minor importance for providing substrate for the dark reactions under well-watered conditions, became the major source of carbohydrate for nocturnal carboxylation as drought progressed. Flexibility in terms of the major carbohydrate source used to sustain dark CO2 uptake is therefore considered a crucial factor in meeting the carbon and energy demands under limiting environmental conditions. Recovery from CAM-idling was found to be dependent on the restoration of the starch pool which was used predominantly for provision of substrate for nocturnal carboxylation whilst net carbon export was limited. The conservation of starch for the nocturnal reactions might be adaptive with regard to responding efficiently to a return of water stress.