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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


CABRERA, H. MARINO. Ecophysiological responses of plants in ecosystems with Mediterranean-like climate and high mountain environments. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2002, vol.75, n.3, pp.625-637. ISSN 0716-078X.

This review highlights the studies on plant physiological ecology of Mediterranean-like climate zones, with interest in the photosynthesis and in the multiple stress characteristics of these environments. It incorporates an eco-physiological approach to the study of the distribution of the life forms and species of Mediterranean ecosystems, particularly in the Mediterranean zone of central Chile. It is emphasized the effect of drought (water), thermal (temperatures) and luminic stress (radiation) on photosynthesis. Drought stress would be the determinant factor in the distribution in evergreen and deciduous trees at low altitudes, whereas in shrubs and cushions at intermediate altitudes -at the treeline- or higher, it would be the temperatures and/or the combination of both stresses, moreover the light stress. The photoinhibition of photosynthesis caused by the multiple stresses in Mediterranean-climate zones is also discussed, explaining the theoretical basic concepts in chlorophyll "a" fluorescence and photoprotection provided by the xanthophylls cycle. The hypotheses to explain how these multiple stresses modulate the distribution and the seasonal and annual phenological patterns of plants are postulated. Finally, in order to avoid the clear ecological differences in the ecophysiological responses of plants, comparisons are done among phylogenetically close species (i.e., congener) and interspecific differences in phenotypic characters that are correlated with environmental parameters. These aspects are explained through examing the adaptative processes and not throughout the independence of the characteristics resulting from the phylogenetic inertia

Keywords : ecophysiology; photosynthesis; water; temperature and light stress.

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