Seasonal fluctuations in the concentration of UV-absorbing compounds in the leaves of some Mediterranean plants under field conditions


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Leaves of 14 representative Mediterranean plant species were collected on a monthly basis and assayed for UV-absorbing compounds concentration, either on an area or a dry mass basis, from 1995 to 1997. Strong seasonal fluctuations were observed in eight species (all evergreens, two phrygana, one deciduous, one summer perennial and one winter perennial). Two different patterns of changing concentrations of UV-absorbing compounds were observed. In the first, concentration of these compounds was higher in young developing leaves and concentration declined during maturation, whereas in other plants, the opposite trend was observed. These differences could be attributed to the particular leaf surface morphology of each plant. The observed seasonal fluctuations of UV-absorbing compounds seem to be more correlated to developmental processes, than to seasonal fluctuations of the naturally occurring UV-B radiation. Most of the winter perennials did not show strong fluctuations during the period of development. The concentration of these compounds varied not only on a seasonal basis among the examined plants, but between different life forms as well: during winter, examination of the leaves of 13 species showed that evergreen sclerophylls and phrygana had at least two-fold higher concentration of UV-B-absorbing compounds on a leaf area basis than winter perennials. In addition, during the same season and irrespective of life form and species, the absorbance at 300 nm per unit of mature leaf area followed an asymptotic exponential decrease when specific leaf area increased. The UV-B radiation screening capacity of the leaves of these plants is discussed in relation to each adaptive strategy.