Al accumulation is a common trait expressed in at least 60 plant families and particularly prevalent in tropical woody plants. However, the functional significance and genetic or physiological controls on Al accumulation are currently unknown. We tested the hypothesis that differential expression of Al accumulation among wild populations of the Al-accumulating tropical shrub M. malabathricum is associated with habitat-related variation in total and exchangeable soil Al concentrations. Mature leaves and seeds were sampled from 20 populations of M. malabathricum growing in six habitats across Peninsular Malaysia, and soil was collected from each site. The seeds were grown in hydroponic solutions comprising 50% Hoagland’s solution amended with Al in the form of 1.0 mM AlCl3 to test the hypothesis that differential expression of foliar Al accumulation is an inherited trait. Foliar Al concentrations varied significantly among populations, but were not consistently different among plants growing in different habitats and showed no relationship to total or exchangeable Al concentrations in soils collected at the 20 sites. Mean foliar Al concentration in wild plants was positively correlated with foliar Ca concentrations, and with total soil N, Ca and Mg concentrations, across the 20 populations, and Al addition increased foliar concentrations of P, Ca, Mg and K in seedlings. The differential expression of Al accumulation in M. malabathricum populations is uncoupled to local variation in soil Al concentrations, but may be sensitive to local soil-related variation in the availability of other macro-nutrients, in particular N, Ca and Mg. Further research on the factors controlling Al uptake should focus on the plasticity of this trait within populations of Al accumulators and interactions with micro-habitat variation in the availability of the macro-nutrient cations.
Bibliographical noteWe would like to acknowledge Dr Weitz Hedda, Dr John Danku and, Mr David Hadwen for their help during this research was conducted. This study was funded by grants from the University of Aberdeeen, United Kingdom (CF10166-53) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Terengganu, Malaysia (GU/036).
- Aluminium accumulation
- functional trait
- Melastoma malabathricum
- Peninsular Malaysia