Halophytes and saline adaptations: A Special Issue of Annals of Botany open for submissions

Tim J Flowers and Tim D Colmer

Saline eco­sys­tems are a famil­iar fea­ture in many con­tin­ents. The seas and oceans of the world, which con­tain on aver­age about 3.5% (w/v) salt, cover some 72% of the sur­face of the globe and so it is inev­it­able that salt affects some of the land. These nat­ural salt-affected areas are char­ac­ter­ized by a unique flora of halo­phytes, with an unusual abil­ity to cope with salin­ity, far above that of most plants. These abil­it­ies of halo­phytes to cope with highly saline soils offer import­ant mod­els for under­stand­ing salt tol­er­ance in plants, provid­ing insights bey­ond stud­ies of stress responses of non-halophytes more com­monly repor­ted in the sci­entific lit­er­at­ure. Halophytic eco­sys­tems have been stud­ied (and mod­elled) as have their soils, their micro­bi­o­logy and their pro­ductiv­ity. Recent research is high­light­ing physiolo­gical and molecu­lar aspects of the adapt­a­tions of halo­phytes to salinity.

Tecticornia pergranulata

Tecticornia per­gran­u­lata. Photo: Tim Flowers.

There has been a steady increase of research pub­lic­a­tions on the effects of salin­ity on plants since the 1960s, with a three-fold increase in the num­ber of papers a year (with salin* and plant* in the topic) between the years 2001–2002 and 2011–2012. This reflects a grow­ing real­isa­tion of the impact of salin­ity for world agri­cul­ture. Irrigated agri­cul­ture, per­haps the most pro­duct­ive of agri­cul­tural sys­tems, is affected by salin­isa­tion with some 20% of the irrig­ated area being suf­fi­ciently salt-affected to reduce or pre­vent crop­ping. Large areas of dryland/rainfed agri­cul­ture are also impacted, or threatened by, spread­ing salin­isa­tion as a con­sequence of changed hydro­lo­gical regimes res­ult­ing from clear­ance of the per­en­nial nat­ive veget­a­tion. Rising sea-levels threaten low-lying coastal regions across the world, many of the most vul­ner­able of which lie in eco­nom­ic­ally less developed countries.

In 2009 a COST Action ‘Putting halo­phytes to work – from genes to eco­sys­tems’ brought together the expert­ise of plant sci­ent­ists, soil sci­ent­ists and micro­bi­o­lo­gists to gen­er­ate a new under­stand­ing of the eco­sys­tems in which halo­phytes grow and flour­ish; an under­stand­ing that was designed to inform the man­age­ment of coastal envir­on­ments, sug­gest the cre­ation of a new saline agri­cul­ture using halo­phytic spe­cies and aid the gen­er­a­tion of salt tol­er­ant crops. Participants in this Action are now, with the sup­port of the Annals of Botany, organ­ising a con­fer­ence on halo­phytes in Coimbra, Portugal, in April 2014 and a Special Issue of the Annals of Botany, to be pub­lished in early 2015. Authors already com­mit­ted to con­trib­ute to the Special Issue are Dorothea Bartels, Hans Bohnert, Lindell Bromham, Tim Colmer, Nina Federoff, Tim Flowers, Rana Munns, Moshe Sagi, Sergey Shabala and Ismail Turkan, with top­ics ran­ging from the evol­u­tion of halo­phytes through their eco­physiology, cell physiology and bio­chem­istry, molecu­lar bio­logy to their domest­ic­a­tion for use in agri­cul­ture. This is an open call for sub­mis­sion of papers on halo­phytes for con­sid­er­a­tion for inclu­sion in the Special Issue, fol­low­ing the usual peer-review process.

We are keen to include fur­ther papers describ­ing ori­ginal research or reviews on halo­phytes. If you have such a manu­script that you would like us to con­sider, please send an out­line (Title, Authors and 250 to 500 words) before November 2013 to annalsbotany@​le.​ac.​uk. If agreed, the full paper would need to be sub­mit­ted by 01 April 2014, in order to enter the full review pro­cess. The dead­line has now passed.

The Special Issue of Annals of Botany on Halophytes will be guest-edited by T.J. Flowers & T.D. Colmer.


Ann Bot is a gestalt entity who works in the office for the Annals of Botany.

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