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Free Content Low-temperature resistance in Polylepis tarapacana, a tree growing at the highest altitudes in the world

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The Polylepis tarapacana forests found in Bolivia are unique with respect to their altitudinal distribution (4200–5200 m). Given the extreme environmental conditions that characterize these altitudes, this species has to rely on distinct mechanisms to survive stressful temperatures. The purpose of this study was to determine low-temperature resistance mechanisms in P. tarapacana. Tissue was sampled for carbohydrate and proline contents and micro-climatic measurements were made at two altitudes, 4300 and 4850 m, during both the dry cold and wet warm seasons. Supercooling capacity (−3 to −6 °C for the cold dry and −7 to −9 °C for the wet warm season) and injury temperatures (−18 to −23 °C for both seasons), determined in the laboratory, indicate that P. tarapacana is a frost-tolerant species. On the other hand, an increase in supercooling capacity, as the result of significant increase in total soluble sugar and proline contents, occurs during the wet warm season as a consequence of higher metabolic activity. Hence, P. tarapacana, a frost-tolerant species during the colder unfavourable season, is able to avoid freezing during the more favourable season when minimum night-time temperatures are not as extreme.
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Keywords: cold resistance; freezing avoidance; frost tolerance; tree line; tropical Andes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Ecológicas (ICAE), Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela, 2: Fundación Miguel Lillo, Tucumán, Argentina, 3: Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Fisiología Vegetal, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Argentina, and 4: Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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