Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Submergence tolerance in Hordeum marinum: dissolved CO2 determines underwater photosynthesis and growth

Ole Pedersen A C E , Al I. Malik A B D and Timothy D. Colmer A B

A School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Future Farm Industries CRC, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Freshwater Biological Laboratory, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Helsingørsgade 51, DK-3400 Hillerød, Denmark.

D Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 37(6) 524-531
Submitted: 15 December 2009  Accepted: 28 February 2010   Published: 20 May 2010


Floodwaters differ markedly in dissolved CO2, yet the effects of CO2 on submergence responses of terrestrial plants have rarely been examined. The influence of dissolved CO2 on underwater photosynthesis and growth was evaluated for three accessions of the wetland plant Hordeum marinum Huds. All three accessions tolerated complete submergence, but only when in CO2 enriched floodwater. Plants submerged for 7 days in water at air equilibrium (18 µM CO2) suffered loss of biomass, whereas those with 200 µM CO2 continued to grow. Higher underwater net photosynthesis at 200 µM CO2 increased by 2.7- to 3.2-fold sugar concentrations in roots of submerged plants, compared with at air equilibrium CO2. Leaf gas films enhancing gas exchange with floodwater, lack of a shoot elongation response conserving tissue sugars and high tissue porosity (24–31% in roots) facilitating internal O2 movement, would all contribute to submergence tolerance in H. marinum. The present study demonstrates that dissolved CO2 levels can determine submergence tolerance of terrestrial plants. So, submergence experiments should be conducted with defined CO2 concentrations and enrichment might be needed to simulate natural environments and, thus, provide relevant plant responses.

Additional keywords: aerenchyma, elevated CO2, flooding tolerance, sea barleygrass, tissue porosity, tissue sugars, Triticeae, waterlogging tolerance, wetland plant, wild Hordeum.


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