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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Reducing plant-derived ethylene concentrations increases the resistance of temperate grassland to drought

Gu, Xinyun; Smaill, Simeon J.; Wang, Bo; Liu, Zhaoying; Xu, Xingliang; Hao, Yanbin; Kardol, Paul; Zhou, Xiaoqi


Model predictions indicate that extreme drought events will occur more frequently by the end of this century, with major implications for terrestrial ecosystem functions such as plant productivity and soil respiration. Previous studies have shown that drought-induced ethylene produced by plants is a key factor affecting plant growth and development, but the impact of drought-induced ethylene on ecosystem functions in natural settings has not yet been tested. Here, we reduced the amount of plant-derived ethylene concentrations by adding the ethylene inhibitor aminoethoxyvinylglycine (AVG), and investigated in situ plant productivity, soil respiration and ethylene concentra-tions for two years in a semi-arid temperate grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Drought significantly reduced plant productivity and soil respiration, but the application of AVG reduced ethylene concentrations and significantly in-creased aboveground plant productivity and soil respiration, effectively enhancing resistance to drought. The reason for this could be that AVG application increased the activity of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) deami-nase and abundance of the acdS gene (the key gene for ACC deaminase), facilitating reduced ACC concentrations in the plant tissue and reduced in planta ethylene synthesis. In addition, there was a significant correlation between soil ACC deaminase activity and plant productivity. Given the global distribution of arid and semi-arid areas, and the expected increases in the frequency and intensity of drought stress, this is a significant concern. These results provide novel ev-idence of the impact of drought-induced plant ethylene production on ecosystem functions in semi-arid temperate grassland ecosystems.


Drought; Ethylene inhibitor; Plant aboveground productivity; Soil respiration; ACC deaminase activity; Grassland ecosystem

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2022, volume: 846, article number: 157408
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Gu, Xinyun
East China Normal University
Smaill, Simeon J.
Wang, Bo
East China Normal University
Liu, Zhaoying
East China Normal University
Xu, Xingliang
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS
Hao, Yanbin
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Zhou, Xiaoqi
East China Normal University

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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