Water shortages have an important impact on the photosynthetic capacity of Phragmites australis. However, this impact has not been adequately studied from the perspective of photosynthesis. An in-depth study of the photosynthetic process can help in better understanding the impact of water shortages on the photosynthetic capacity of P. australis, especially on the microscale. The aim of this study is to explore the photosynthetic adaptation strategies to environmental changes in saline‒alkaline wetlands. The light response curves and CO2 response curves of P. australis in five habitats (hygrophilous, xerophytic, psammophytic, abandoned farmland, paddy field drainage) in saline‒alkaline wetlands were measured at different stages of their life history, and we used a nonrectangular hyperbolic model to fit the data. It was concluded that P. australis utilized coping strategies that differed between the growing and breeding seasons. P. australis in abandoned farmland during the growing season had the highest apparent quantum efficiency (AQE) and photosynthetic utilization efficiency for weak light because of the dark environment. The dark respiration rate of P. australis in the drainage area of paddy fields was the lowest, and it had the highest values for photorespiration rate, maximum photosynthetic rate (Pmax), photosynthetic capacity (Pa), biomass, maximum carboxylation rate (Vcmax), and maximum electron transfer rate (Jmax). The light insensitivity of P. australis increased with the transition from growing to breeding season, and the dark respiration rate also showed a downward trend. Moreover, Vcmax and Jmax would decline when Pmax and Pa showed a declining trend, and vice versa. In other words, Vcmax and Jmax could explain changes in the photosynthetic capacity to some extent. These findings contribute to providing insights that Vcmax and Jmax can directly reflect the variation in photosynthetic capacity of P. australis under water shortages in saline‒alkaline wetlands and in other parts of world where there are problems with similarly harmful environmental conditions.
Keywords: Amur River Basin; Heilongjiang Province; Jilin Province; Phragmites australis; biomass; farmland; paddy; photosynthesis; wetlands.