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Interactive effects of UV radiation and water availability on seedlings of six woody Mediterranean species



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To assess the effects of UV radiation and its interaction with water availability on Mediterranean plants, we performed an experiment with seedlings of six Mediterranean species (three mesophytes vs three xerophytes) grown in a glasshouse from May to October under three UV conditions (without UV, with UVA and with UVA+UVB) and two irrigation levels (watered to saturation and low watered). Morphological, physiological and biochemical measures were taken. Exposure to UVA+UVB increased the overall leaf mass per area (LMA) and the leaf carotenoids/chlorophyll a + b ratio of plants in relation to plants grown without UV or with UVA, respectively. In contrast, we did not find a general effect of UV on the leaf content of phenols or UVB-absorbing compounds of the studied species. Regarding plant growth, UV inhibited the above-ground biomass production of well-watered plants of Pistacia lentiscus. Conversely, under low irrigation, UVA tended to abolish the reduction in growth experienced by P. lentiscus plants growing in a UV-free environment, in accordance with UVA-enhanced apparent electron transport rate (ETR) values under drought in this species. UVA also induced an overall increase in root biomass when plants of the studied species were grown under a low water supply. In conclusion, while plant exposition to UVA favored root growth under water shortage, UVB addition only gave rise to photoprotective responses, such as the increase in LMA or in the leaf carotenoids/chlorophyll a + b ratio of plants. Species-specific responses to UV were not related with the xerophytic or mesophytic character of the studied species.