Plants (2020-03-01)

Non-Structural Carbohydrate Storage Strategy Explains the Spatial Distribution of Treeline Species

  • Hudong Han,
  • Hongshi He,
  • Zhengfang Wu,
  • Yu Cong,
  • Shengwei Zong,
  • Jianan He,
  • Yuanyuan Fu,
  • Kai Liu,
  • Hang Sun,
  • Yan Li,
  • Changbao Yu,
  • Jindan Xu

DOI
https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9030384
Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9, no. 3
p. 384

Abstract

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Environmental factors that drive carbon storage are often used as an explanation for alpine treeline formation. However, different tree species respond differently to environmental changes, which challenges our understanding of treeline formation and shifts. Therefore, we selected Picea jezoensis and Betula ermanii, the two treeline species naturally occurring in Changbai Mountain in China, and measured the concentration of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), soluble sugars and starch in one-year-old leaves, shoots, stems and fine roots at different elevations. We found that compared with P. jezoensis, the NSC and soluble sugars concentrations of leaves and shoots of B. ermanii were higher than those of P. jezoensis, while the starch concentration of all the tissues were lower. Moreover, the concentration of NSC, soluble sugars and starch in the leaves of B. ermanii decreased with elevation. In addition, the starch concentration of B. ermanii shoots, stems and fine roots remained at a high level regardless of whether the soluble sugars concentration decreased. Whereas the concentrations of soluble sugars and starch in one-year-old leaves, shoots and stems of P. jezoensis responded similarly changes with elevation. These findings demonstrate that compared with P. jezoensis, B. ermanii has a higher soluble sugars/starch ratio, and its shoots, stems and fine roots actively store NSC to adapt to the harsh environment, which is one of the reasons that B. ermanii can be distributed at higher altitudes.

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