Structural Adaptation of the Leaf Mesophyll to Shading
Morphological and physiological characteristics of leaves from plant species collected in steppe communities in the various climatic zones in Eurasia were compared. The changes in leaf structure correlated with the major climatic factors. The mean thickness of leaves increased with increasing mean temperature of July and decreasing mean precipitation, which corresponded to aridity increase. The increased leaf thickness correlated with an increase in the specific leaf weight. The content of chlorophylls (a + b) in leaves greatly varied with plant habitats, whereas the chlorophyll a/b ratio remained unchanged. The chlorophyll content in leaf tissues had a general tendency to decrease with increasing leaf thickness. The leaf chlorophyll content positively correlated (R 2 = 0.77) with the proportion of chlorenchyma in leaf tissues. It is concluded that steppe plants adapt to climate aridization at the structural level by increasing the proportion of protective heterotrophic components of the leaf without changing the functional activity of photosynthetic tissues.