Halotolerance is the adaptation of living
organisms to conditions of high salinity. Halotolerant species tend to live in areas such as coastal dunes, saline deserts, salt marshes, and inland salt seas and springs. Halophiles are a group of bacteria that live in highly saline environments, and indeed in many cases require the salinity to survive. Halophytes are salt-tolerant higher plants.
Fields of scientific research relevant to halotolerance include
biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, ecology, and genetics.
An understanding of halotolerance can be applicable to areas such as
arid-zone agriculture, xeriscaping, aquaculture(of fish or algae), bioproduction of desirable compounds (such as phycobiliproteins or carotenoids) using seawater to support growth, or remediation of salt-affected soils. In addition, many environmental stressors involve or induce osmotic changes, so knowledge gained about halotolerance can also be relevant to understanding tolerance to extremes in moisture or temperature.
Goals of studying halotolerance include increasing the agricultural productivity of lands affected by
soil salinationor where only saline water is available. Conventional agricultural species could be made more halotolerant by gene transfer from naturally halotolerant species (by conventional breeding or genetic engineering) or by applying treatments developed from an understanding of the mechanisms of halotolerance. In addition, naturally halotolerant plants or microorganisms could be developed into useful agricultural crops or fermentation organisms.
Tolerance of high salt conditions can be obtained through several routes. High levels of salt entering the plant can trigger ionic imbalances which cause complications in respiration and photosynthesis, leading to reduced rates of growth, injury and death in sever cases. In order to be considered tolerant of saline conditions, the
protoplastmust show methods of balancing the toxic and osmoticeffects of the increased salt concentrations. Halophytic vascular plants can survive on soils with salt concentrations around 6%, or up to 20% in extreme cases. Tolerance of such conditions is reached through the use of stress proteinsand compatible cytoplasm osmotic solutes.
In order to exist in such conditions, halophytes tend to be subject to the uptake of high levels of salt into their cells and this is often required in order to maintain an osmotic potential lower than that of the soil in order to ensure the uptake of water. High salt concentrations within the cell can be damaging to sensitive organelles such as the chloroplast, so sequestration of salt is seen. Under this action, salt is stored within the
vacuoleto protect such delicate areas. If high salt concentrations are seen within the vacuole, a high concentration gradient will be established between the vacuole and the cytoplasm, leading to high levels of energy investment to maintain this state. Therefore, the accumulation of compatible cytoplasmic osmotic solutes can be seen to prevent this situation from occurring. Amino Acidssuch as proline accumulate in halophytic Brassicaspecies, quaternary ammonium bases such as Glycine Betaine and sugars have been shown to act in this role within halophytic members of Chenopodiaceaeand members of Asteraceaeshow the build up of cyclites and soluble sugars. The build up of these compounds allow for the balancing of the osmotic effect while preventing the establishment of toxic concentrations of salt or requiring the maintenance of high concentration gradients.
last = Larcher
first = Walter
publication-date = 2001
title = Physiological Plant Ecology
isbn = 3-540-43516-6
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