Leaf gas exchange and solute accumulation in the halophyte Salvadora persica grown at moderate salinity

Environ Exp Bot. 2000 Aug 1;44(1):31-38. doi: 10.1016/s0098-8472(00)00051-4.

Abstract

The domestication of halophytes has been proposed as a strategy to expand cultivation onto unfavorable land. However, halophytes mainly have been considered for their performance in extremely saline environments, and only a few species have been characterized in terms of their tolerance and physiological responses to moderately high levels of salinity. Salvadora persica is an evergreen perennial halophyte capable of growing under extreme conditions, from very dry environments to highly saline soils. It possesses high potential economic value as a source of oil and medicinal compounds. To quantify its response to salinity, S. persica seedlings were exposed to 200 mM NaCl for 3 weeks, and growth, leaf gas exchange and solute accumulation were measured. The presence of NaCl induced a 100% increase in fresh weight and a 30% increase in dry weight, relative to non-salinized controls. Increases in fresh weight and dry weight were not associated with higher rates of net CO(2) assimilation, however. Analysis of ion accumulation revealed that S. persica leaves accumulated Na(+) as a primary osmoticum. The concentration of Na(+) in leaves of salinized plants was approximately 40-fold greater than that measured in non-salinized controls, and this was associated with significant reductions in leaf K(+) and Ca(2+) concentrations. In addition, a significant accumulation of proline, probably associated with osmotic adjustment and protection of membrane stability, occurred in roots of salinized plants.