Plant and Soil

, Volume 359, Issue 1–2, pp 255–266 | Cite as

Effects of copper on growth, radial oxygen loss and root permeability of seedlings of the mangroves Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Rhizophora stylosa

  • Hao Cheng
  • Nora Fung-Yee Tam
  • Youshao Wang
  • Shiyu Li
  • Guizhu Chen
  • Zhihong Ye
Regular Article



Mangrove wetlands have experienced significant contaminant input such as copper (Cu), aggravated by rapid urban development. This study aimed to investigate the possible function of root permeability in metal detoxification.


Pot trials were conducted to evaluate the responses of root permeability in relation to metal (Cu) exposure in seedlings of two mangroves: Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Rhizophora stylosa.


Copper inhibited plant growth and root permeability of the two species significantly (due to decreases in root porosity, thickening of exodermis and increases in lignification), leading to a significant reduction in radial oxygen loss (ROL). A negative correlation between soil Cu and ROL from root tip was also observed. The observed metal uptake by excised roots further indicated that increased lignification would directly prevent excessive Cu from further entering into the roots.


In summary, the two mangroves reacted to Cu by producing an impermeable barrier in roots. Such an inducible barrier to ROL is likely to be an adaptive strategy against Cu toxicity. This study reveals new evidence of a structural adaptive strategy for metal tolerance by mangrove plants.


Heavy metal Mangrove plant Radial oxygen loss Root anatomy Root porosity 



We sincerely thank Prof. A.J.M. Baker (University of Melbourne, Australia and University of Sheffield, UK) for improving this manuscript and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. This work was supported financially by the National 863 projects of China (No. 2007AA091703), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 30570345, 41106103), Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education of China (20100171110035), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (20110490934), and the Areas of Excellence established under the RGC of the Hong Kong SAR (Project No. AoE/P-04/04).

Supplementary material

11104_2012_1171_MOESM1_ESM.doc (120 kb)
Fig. S1a,b Anatomical symptoms of the root exodermis in the two mangrove species after 20 days pretreatment of salt (500 mmol L−1 NaCl), 1 cm from root tip. The sections were stained with phloroglucinol and hydrochloric acid to show lignification (red). Similar to Cu, significant increases of lignification were found in salt-pretreated roots. a B. gymnorrhiza, b R. stylosa. Only slight lignification was detected in control roots (data not shown, similar to the control roots shown in Fig. 4). Bar 50 μm (DOC 120 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hao Cheng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nora Fung-Yee Tam
    • 3
  • Youshao Wang
    • 2
  • Shiyu Li
    • 4
  • Guizhu Chen
    • 4
  • Zhihong Ye
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory for Bio-control and Guangdong Key Laboratory of Plant Resources, School of Life SciencesSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography and Daya Bay Marine Biology Research Station, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Biology and ChemistryCity University of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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