Silicified structures affect leaf optical properties in grasses and sedge
•Prickle hairs and silicified cuticle affect leaf optical properties.•The variability of reflection spectra was explained by Si contents.•The variability of transmittance spectra was explained by Si and Ca contents.
Silicon (Si) is an important structural element that can accumulate at high concentrations in grasses and sedges, and therefore Si structures might affect the optical properties of the leaves. To better understand the role of Si in light/leaf interactions in species rich in Si, we examined the total Si and silica phytoliths, the biochemical and morphological leaf properties, and the reflectance and transmittance spectra in grasses (Phragmites australis, Phalaris arundinacea, Molinia caerulea, Deschampsia cespitosa) and sedge (Carex elata). We show that these grasses contain >1% phytoliths per dry mass, while the sedge contains only 0.4%. The data reveal the variable leaf structures of these species and significant differences in the amount of Si and phytoliths between developing and mature leaves within each species and between grasses and sedge, with little difference seen among the grass species. Redundancy analysis shows the significant roles of the different near-surface silicified leaf structures (e.g., prickle hairs, cuticle, epidermis), phytoliths and Si contents, which explain the majority of the reflectance and transmittance spectra variability. The amount of explained variance differs between mature and developing leaves. The transmittance spectra are also significantly affected by chlorophyll a content and calcium levels in the leaf tissue.
Journal: Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology - Volume 130, 5 January 2014, Pages 1–10