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Plant Physiol. 1984 Jun;75(2):364-8.

Photosynthetic response and adaptation to high temperature in desert plants : a comparison of gas exchange and fluorescence methods for studies of thermal tolerance.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California 94305.


The temperature threshold for the onset of irreversible loss of photosynthetic capacity of leaves was examined in studies of net CO(2) exchange and by chlorophyll fluorescence techniques. Close agreement was found between the temperature threshold for a dramatic increase in the fluorescence of chlorophyll from intact leaves and the leaf temperature at which the capacity for photosynthetic CO(2) fixation (measured at rate saturating light intensity by infrared gas analysis) began to be temperature unstable (i.e. decline with time of exposure to a constant temperature). This decline in CO(2) uptake was not a result of a stomatal response yielding a reduced intercellular CO(2) concentration at high temperature, and it is interpreted as an indication of progressive damage to some essential component(s) of the leaf. The temperature-dependent change in chlorophyll fluorescence apparently also indicated the onset of this damage. The fluorescence assay could be conducted with discs of leaves collected from remote locations and kept moist while they were transported to a central location, allowing assessment of the high temperature tolerance of leaves which developed under natural field conditions. These assays were verified using a mobile laboratory to study gas exchange of attached leaves in situ. The high temperature sensitivity of leaves of plants growing under natural conditions were similar to those of the same species grown in controlled environments of similar thermal regimes. High temperature in controlled environment studies brought about acclimation responses which increased the threshold for high temperature damage as measured by gas exchange. Studies of fluorescence versus temperature confirmed that this method could be used to quantify these responses, and permitted the kinetics of the acclimation response to be examined. Gas exchange studies, while providing similar estimates of thermal stability, required more time, more elaborate instrumentation, and are particularly difficult to conduct with field plants growing in situ.

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