Alleviation of abiotic stress by silicon: what can a meta-analysis of agricultural studies tell us about ecology?

Cooke, Julia and Leishman, Michelle R. (2016). Alleviation of abiotic stress by silicon: what can a meta-analysis of agricultural studies tell us about ecology? In: British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016, 11-14 Dec 2016, Liverpool, UK.

Abstract

We have little idea if silicon has a large or small role in alleviating plant stress in ecology. Using predominantly agricultural taxa, hundreds of single-species studies have demonstrated the facility of silicon (Si) to alleviate diverse abiotic stresses in plants. Knowledge of the mechanisms of Si-mediated stress alleviation is progressing, but a quantitative assessment of the alleviative capacity of Si, which could elucidate plant Si function more broadly, was lacking. We combined the results of 145 experiments to statistically assess the responses of stressed plants to Si supply across multiple plant families and abiotic stresses. We interrogated our database to determine whether stressed plants increased in dry mass and net assimilation rate, oxidative stress markers were reduced, antioxidant responses were increased and whether element uptake showed consistent changes when supplied with Si. Similarities in responses across families provide strong support for a role of Si in the alleviation of abiotic stress in natural systems. We suggest this role may become more important under a changing climate and discuss where we should go from here.

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