Low temperature resistance mechanisms in Polylepis tarapacana (Rosaceae), a tree species growing at the highest altitudes in the world

Published in Plant, Cell & Environment

Rada F, Garcia-Nuñez C, Boero C, Hilal M, Gonzalez J, Gallardo M, Prado F, Azocar A, Liberman-Cruz M

Publication year 2001
DOI https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-3040.2001.00685.x
IAI Program

CRN 1 

IAI Project CRN040


The Polylepis tarapacana forests found in Bolivia are unique with respect to their altitudinal distribution (4200&ndash5200 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.s.