Natural and anthropogenic changes in basin lake levels in the western U.S. expose saline, alkaline substrates that are commonly colonized by shrubs in the Chenopodiaceae. On a chronosequence of recently exposed substrates at Mono Lake, California, Sarcobatus vermiculatus has greatest biomass accrual, seed production, seedling establishment, and leaf N at younger sites where soils are extremely saline and alkaline. These field observations and an understanding of the role of N-containing compatible solutes in salinity tolerance of halophytes led to our prediction that Na and N interactions stimulate Sarcobatus performance. To test this, we grew Sarcobatus juveniles for 2 years in the greenhouse at 4 levels of NaCl (5, 100, 300, and 450 mM) and 3 levels of N (0.04, 0.4, and 8 mM) in a randomized, complete-block design. Contrary to our expectations, high N availability did not induce salt-stimulated growth nor did it increase salinity tolerance in Sarcobatus. Increased N nutrition also had no significant effect on leaf cation ratios or selectivity. Plants grown at high salinity had significantly lower leaf K:Na, Ca:Na, and Mg:Na ratios than plants grown at lower salinity. However, plant selectivity for the macronutrient cations remained high, even at 450 mM NaCl. Without such high selectivity, the cation nutrition of Sarcobatus would decline to even lower levels, resulting in severe nutrient deficiencies. This study suggests that the ability of Sarcobatus to attain high leaf N, rather than an interaction between Na and N, enhances its performance at saline sites. In addition, the ability of Sarcobatus to maintain high macronutrient cation selectivity despite high salinity allows its distribution to extend to extremely saline and alkaline substrates in this arid system.
Drenovsky, Rebecca E. and Richards, James H.
"High nitrogen availability does not improve salinity tolerance in Sarcobatus vermiculatus,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 63:
4, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol63/iss4/7