The role of leaf superoxide dismutase and proline on intra-specific photosynthesis recovery of Schima superba following drought


Understanding the physiological and biochemical responses of tree seedlings under extreme drought stress, along with recovery during rewatering, and potential intra-species differences, will allow us to more accurately predict forest responses under future climate change. Here, we selected seedlings from four provenances (AH (Anhui), JX (Jiangxi), HN (Hunan) and GX (Guangxi)) of Schima superba and carried out a simulated drought-rewatering experiment in a field-based rain-out shelter. Seedlings were progressively dried until they reached 50% and 88% loss of xylem hydraulic conductivity (PLC) (i.e. P50 and P88), respectively, before they were rehydrated and maintained at field capacity for 30 days. Leaf photosynthesis (Asat), water status, activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), and proline (Pro) concentration were monitored and their associations were determined. Increasing drought significantly reduced Asat, relative water content (RWC) and SOD activity in all provenances, and Pro concentration was increased to improve water retention; all four provenances exhibited similar response patterns, associated with similar leaf ultrastructure at pre-drought. Upon rewatering, physiological and biochemical traits were restored to well-watered control values in P50-stressed seedlings. In P88-stressed seedlings, Pro was restored to control values, while SOD was not fully recovered. The recovery pattern differed partially among provenances. There was a progression of recovery following watering, with RWC firstly recovered, followed by SOD and Pro, and then Asat, but with significant associations among these traits. Collectively, the intra-specific differences of S. superba seedlings in recovery of physiology and biochemistry following rewatering highlight the need to consider variations within a given tree species coping with future more frequent drought stress.

Scientific Reports