Resilience of a semi-deciduous shrub, Cistus salvifolius, to severe summer drought and heat stress

Olga M. Grant, Łukasz Tronina, José I. García-Plazaola, Raquel Esteban, João Santos Pereira, Manuela Chaves

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Shrubs often form the understorey in Mediterranean oak woodlands. These shrubs are exposed to recurrent water deficits, but how they will respond to predicted future exacerbation of drought is not yet understood. The ecophysiology of the shrub Cistus salvifolius L. was studied over the summer of 2005, which was during a heat-wave superimposed on the most severe drought in the Iberian Peninsula in the last 140 years. Branch water potential fell drastically during the summer, accompanied by stomatal closure and downregulation of PSII, with a concomitant loss of chlorophyll in the leaves. A parallel increase in the ratio of light-dissipating to light-capturing pigments and the proportion of xanthophyll cycle pigments in the de-epoxidated state, along with alterations in the structure of the light harvesting complex, may have reduced the potential for damage to leaves. Substantial increases in leaf tocopherol content during high radiation may have reduced damage from free radicals. Following autumn rains, leaves of the same shrubs showed physiological recovery, indicating the resilience of this Mediterranean species, for which an extremely dry hydrological year with 45% less rainfall than average, did not prevent healthy leaf functioning in response to renewed soil moisture availability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • antioxidants
  • chlorophyll fluorescence
  • photosystem II
  • thermography
  • water potential
  • xanthophyll cycle


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