Different tolerance to salinity of two populations of Oenothera drummondii with contrasted biogeographical origin.
Oenothera drummondii is a native species from the coastal dunes of the Gulf of Mexico that has nowadays extended to coastal areas in temperate zones all over the world, its invasion becoming a significant problem locally. The species grows on back beach and incipient dunes, where it can suffer flooding by seawater, and sea spray. We were interested in knowing how salinity affects this species and if invasive populations present morphological or functional traits that would provide greater tolerance to salinity than native ones. To this end, we conducted a greenhouse experiment where plants from one native and from one invading population were irrigated with five salinity treatments. We measured functional traits on photosynthetic, photochemical efficiency, water content, flowering, Na+ content, pigment content, and biomass. Although O. drummondii showed high resistance to salinity, the highest levels recorded high mortality, especially in the invasive population. Plants exhibited differences not only in response to time under salinity conditions, but also according to their biogeographic origin, the native population being more resistant to long exposure and high salt concentration than the invasive one. Native and invasive populations showed different response to salt stress in photosynthesis and transpiration rates, stomatal conductance, water use efficiency, carboxylation efficiency, electron transport rate, electron transport efficiency, energy used in photochemistry, among others. The increasing salinity levels resulted in a progressive reduction of photosynthesis rate due to both stomatal and biochemical limitations, and also in a reduction of biomass and number and size of flowers, compromising the reproductive capacity.