Influence of solar ultraviolet-B radiation on Antarctic terrestrial plants: Results from a 4-year field study

Thomas Day, C. T. Ruhland, F. S. Xiong

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108 Scopus citations


We examined the influence of solar ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B; 280-315 nm) on the performance of Antarctic vascular plants (Colobanthus quitensis and Deschampsia antarctica) by placing filters that either absorbed or transmitted most solar UV-B over tundra along the Antarctic Peninsula for four consecutive growing seasons. The difference in biologically effective UV-B levels between our treatments was 65%, which was similar to the enhancement in ambient UV-B levels that appeared attributable to ozone depletion during the first 2 months of the growing season (November and December) at our site (62%). In both species, exposure to UV-B reduced vegetative growth, primarily through slower leaf elongation rates that led to shorter fully expanded leaves. In C. quitensis, exposure to UV-B also led to reductions in leaf longevity, branch production, cushion diameter growth, aboveground biomass, and thickness of the non-green cushion base and litter layer. Exposure to UV-B accelerated the development of reproductive structures and increased the number of panicles (D. antarctica) and capsules (C. quitensis) that reached maturity per unit of ground surface area covered by mother plants. However, this effect was offset by a tendency for these panicles and capsules to produce fewer spikelets and seeds. Ultimately, UV-B exposure did not effect the numbers of spikelets or seeds produced per unit of ground surface area. While seeds from plants exposed to UV-B tended to be lighter, germination rates were similar between UV-B treatments. The relative reductions in leaf elongation rates in D. antarctica attributable to UV-B exposure increased from the first (23%) through the fourth (43%) growing season, and relative reductions in leaf longevity in C. quitensis tended to increase from the first (9%) through the fourth (19%) growing season, suggesting that UV-B growth responses tended to be cumulative over successive years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-87
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001


  • Antarctica
  • Colobanthus quitensis
  • Deschampsia antarctica
  • Leaf expansion
  • Litter
  • Ozone depletion
  • Reproduction
  • UV-B radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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