• Biochemistry of diatom photosynthetic membranes and pigment-protein complexes

      Martinson, Tracey Ann; Plumley, F. Gerald (1996)
      Diatoms are an ecologically important group of algae in both marine and freshwater systems, but in spite of their significance little is known about the structure of their photosynthetic apparatus. This is due in part to the lack of a highly purified, oxygen-evolving thylakoid membrane preparation. Since thylakoid membranes purified from diatoms using methods developed for green plants did not evolve oxygen, a new procedure was developed for use with diatoms. An oxygen-evolving thylakoid membrane preparation is crucial for the study of photosynthetic pigment-protein complexes from these algae because the stability of the Photosystem I (PS I) and Photosystem II reaction centers was shown to be greatly reduced in thylakoid preparations that did not retain electron transport activity. As a result of the instability of PS I in some thylakoid preparations, a novel chlorophyll-binding complex was isolated that contained only the PsaA polypeptide. The isolation of this complex should prove useful in elucidating the structure of the PS I reaction center in all plants. Immunological and N-terminal protein sequencing methods were used to identify several photosynthetic proteins in the purified thylakoid preparation. These results provided evidence for posttranslational modification of two light-harvesting polypeptides (LHCPs) as well as of the PsaB subunit of the PS I reaction center core. Posttranslational modification of LHCPs and/or of PsaB has not been observed in green plants. In contrast to green plants, PS I in diatoms has been shown to be located in the inner thylakoid membranes. It was hypothesized that proteolytic processing of the C-terminus of PsaB in diatoms may be necessary for the PS I holocomplex to be present in the inner membranes, and that this processing may be responsible for the instability of PS I in purified diatom thylakoids. The existence of a functional, highly purified, and extensively characterized thylakoid preparation from diatoms will promote our understanding of the photosynthetic apparatus in these algae.
    • Carbon Cycling In Three Mature Black Spruce ( Picea Mariana [Mill.] B.S.P.) Forests In Interior Alaska

      Vogel, Jason Gene; Valentine, David (2004)
      Climate warming in high latitudes is expected to alter the carbon cycle of the boreal forest. Warming will likely increase the rate of organic matter decomposition and microbial respiration. Faster organic matter decomposition should increase plant available nutrients and stimulate plant growth. I examined these predicted relationships between C cycle components in three similar black spruce forests (Picea mariana [Mill] B.S.P) near Fairbanks, Alaska, that differed in soil environment and in-situ decomposition. As predicted, greater in-situ decomposition rates corresponded to greater microbial respiration and black spruce aboveground growth. However root and soil respiration were both greater at the site where decomposition was slowest, indicating greater C allocation to root processes with slower decomposition. It is unclear what environmental factor controls spruce allocation. Low temperature or moisture could cause spruce to increase belowground allocation because slower decomposition leads to low N availability, but foliar N concentration was similar across sites and root N concentration greater at the slow decomposition site. The foliar isotopic composition of 13C indicated soil moisture was lower at the site with greater root and soil respiration. From a literature review of mature black spruce forests, it appears drier (e.g. Alaska) regions of the boreal forest have greater soil respiration because of greater black spruce C allocation belowground. Organic matter characteristics identified with pyrolysis gas chromatography-mass spectrometry correlated with microbial processes, but organic matter chemistry less influenced C and N mineralization than did temperature. Also, differences among sites in C and net N mineralization rates were few and difficult to explain from soil characteristics. Warming had a greater influence on C and N mineralization than the mediatory effect of soil organic matter chemistry. In this study, spruce root C allocation varied more among the three stands than other ecosystem components of C cycling. Spruce root growth most affected the annual C balance by controlling forest floor C accumulation, which was remarkably sensitive to root severing. Predicting the response of black spruce to climate change will require an understanding of how spruce C allocation responds to available moisture and soil temperature.
    • Photosynthetic acclimation of white spruce (Picea glauca) to canopy microhabitats

      Doran, Kathleen; Ruess, Roger W. (2000)
      Slow growing white spruce (Picea glauca) seedlings and saplings often become established early in succession and mature through several succession seres. During early succession, spruce often germinate in mineral soils and become established in alder (Alnus tenuifolia or A. crispa) thickets, with the potential for both competitive and facilitative relationships. Although competitive and facilitative plant interactions are often identified by changes in the growth or density of the interacting species, the result of the interaction will depend upon the individual plant's physiological acclimation to abiotic changes caused by neighboring plants. This study analyzes components of photosynthesis to provide information about the effects of alder on spruce. To isolate the responses of components of the photosynthetic process to neighbors, gas exchange techniques, needle chemical analysis, and observations of environmental parameters were utilized in growth chamber experiments, with individual plants in the field, and in controlled density plantations of alder and spruce. Growth at high light in all experiments resulted in lower maximum photosynthetic rates in current year shoots. Light response curves showed lower incident quantum yields in spruce seedlings growing at the high light levels typical on the floodplain. Increased soil nitrogen did not increase photosynthetic rates per gram needle in any of the experiments. However, increased seedling growth at high light in growth chamber experiments, and increased plant density in spruce/alder plantations, resulted in dilution of needle nitrogen. High needle nitrogen concentrations did not result in higher maximum net assimilation rates, although needle nitrogen was positively correlated with dark respiration rates. Concentrations of rubsico, a potentially rate limiting enzyme for photosynthesis at high light, was very responsive to changes in irradiance, but constituted only a small part of the needle nitrogen pool and did not appear to be limited by nitrogen availability. This work suggests that on a physiological level, spruce is a stress adapted plant with a low capacity to up-regulate photosynthetic physiological processes in response to increased light or nitrogen conditions.
    • Processes controlling nitrogen release and turnover in Arctic tundra

      Kielland, Knut; Chapin, F. Stuart III (1990)
      This thesis provides data on nitrogen cycling among communities representative of the major vegetation types in arctic Alaska. Through field studies, I examined the pattern of nitrogen dynamics in four tundra ecosystems (dry lichen heath, wet meadow, tussock tundra, and deciduous shrub tundra) of contrasting structure and productivity near Toolik Lake, Alaska. In addition, through field and laboratory experiments, I sought to identify the major controls over nitrogen release and turnover in these nitrogen-limited systems. These ecosystems, representing extremes of productivity in arctic Alaska, show order-of-magnitude differences in biomass and net primary productivity, and likewise, exhibit order-of-magnitude differences in net nitrogen mineralization and nitrogen turnover. Decomposition, soil respiration, net nitrogen mineralization, and the turnover of soil inorganic nitrogen were all highly correlated with net primary production. These results show that nutrient availability, in particular nitrogen availability, is a major control over tundra ecosystem function. Soil pools of organic nitrogen are large, whereas the pools of inorganic nitrogen are small, and the net rate of nitrogen mineralization in situ is low. Thus, nitrogen mineralization represents a major control point in the nitrogen cycle. Net nitrogen mineralization is relatively insensitive to changes in soil temperature, but highly responsive to changes in available soil carbon and nitrogen. Thus, the effect of organic matter quality on microbial activity is a more important control of nitrogen release than is the direct effect of temperature. Free amino acids constitute a larger proportion of extractable soil nitrogen than do ammonium and nitrate. Tundra species have the capacity to absorb some amino acids directly at rates comparable to ammonium absorption. These experimental results contrast with the widely held assumption that mineral nitrogen is the only form of nitrogen available to plants. I conclude that we must examine the behavior of both inorganic and organic soil nitrogen in order to adequately understand nitrogen cycling in tundra soils and the functioning of arctic ecosystems.