, Volume 70, Issue 8, pp 1042–1052 | Cite as

Anatomical adaptations of the desert species Stipa lagascae against drought stress

  • Fayçal BoughallebEmail author
  • Raoudha Abdellaoui
  • Zied Hadded
  • Mohammed Neffati


Stipa lagascae R. & Sch. (perennial bunchgrass) is one of the most promising steppic species for arid and desert lands of Tunisia. The present study was designed to study the effect of drought on root and leaf anatomy, water relationship, and the growth of three- month-old S. lagascae plants, submitted to water deficit (5, 10, 15, 20, 30 days of withheld irrigation) and grown in pots in greenhouse conditions. The results show that water deficit treatments reduced the biomass accumulation (MS) and leaf water potential (Ψw) of plants. However, leaf relative water content (RWC) decreased significantly only at severe drought. The root’s anatomical features showed reduced root cross-sectional diameter under water deficit. Conversely, epidermis was unaffected by water stress. Moderate and/or severe water deficit (20–30 days) reduced significantly the cortex thickness, cortical cell size, stele diameter, xylem vessel diameter and the stele/root cross-sectional ratio, while the number of cortical cells increased for severe water deficit. The cuticles and mesophyll of S. lagascae was thickened by moderate to severe drought and the entire lamina thickness was increased significantly by 5.8% only after 30 days of water deficit while epidermis was unaffected by water deficit. However, severe water deficit (30 days) decreased the width and the length of the bundle sheath. At the same time, the mesophyll cells size and both the xylem and phloem vessels diameter diminished by 12, 16.8 and 17.5%, respectively. Leaf rolling occurs as a response to water deficit and its level increases as the drought period is progressing in plants while reduced bulliform cells size occurred only at severe water deficit. Our findings suggest a complex network of root and leaf anatomical adaptations such as a reduced vessel size with lesser cortical and mesophyll parenchyma formation and increased leaf rolling. These proprieties are required for the maintenance of water potential and energy storage under water stress which can improve the resistance of S. lagascae to survive in extremely arid areas.

Key words

Stipa lagascae anatomical changes bulliform cell water status drought xylem vessel 


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We gratefully acknowledge all the technical staff of the Arid Regions Institute-Medenine (IRA) for their help to conductingthese experiments.


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© Slovak Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fayçal Boughalleb
    • 1
    Email author
  • Raoudha Abdellaoui
    • 1
  • Zied Hadded
    • 2
  • Mohammed Neffati
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire ďEcologie Pastorale, Institut des Régions Arides de MédenineUniversité de GabesMédenineTunisia
  2. 2.Faculté des Sciences de GabesUniversité de Gabes Sidi Rzig GabesTunisia

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