High tolerance of repeated heatwaves in Australian native plants
Heatwaves, with increases in day and night time temperatures, are predicted to increase in frequency. We investigated the response of forbs, shrubs, grasses and non-grass monocotyledons from warm temperate environments in Australia to repeated heatwaves to determine if responses differed with growth form and whether the addition of hot night temperatures influenced the ability of species to grow and acclimate. Plants were subjected to 3, 3-day heatwaves comprising either hot days and nights or hot days and cool nights, with control plants maintained under cool days and nights. All species were thermotolerant to repeated heatwaves, although two species showed lower biomass under heat treatments, indicating repeated heatwaves influenced function in some, but not all species. While there was evidence of photosynthetic damage in some species, these recovered by the end of the experiment. While grasses and one herb showed some evidence of photosystem acclimation, increases in the threshold temperatures for membrane breakdown only occurred in one shrub. Leaf sacrifice in grasses was significantly increased after repeated heatwaves suggesting that fuel loads in grass communities will increase in the future. These results indicate high resilience for these Australian native warm temperate plants although lower growth rates in some species after heatwaves may result in changes to community composition.