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Chasing the mechanisms of ecologically adaptive salinity tolerance

Busoms, Silvia; Fischer, Sina; Yant, Levi

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Silvia Busoms

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Professor of Evolutionary Genomics


Plants adapted to challenging environments offer fascinating models of evolutionary change. Importantly, they also give information to meet our pressing need to develop resilient, low-input crops. With mounting environmental fluctuation—including temperature, rainfall, and soil salinity and degradation—this is more urgent than ever. Happily, solutions are hiding in plain sight: the adaptive mechanisms from natural adapted populations, once understood, can then be leveraged. Much recent insight has come from the study of salinity, a widespread factor limiting productivity, with estimates of 20% of all cultivated lands affected. This is an expanding problem, given increasing climate volatility, rising sea levels, and poor irrigation practices. We therefore highlight recent benchmark studies of ecologically adaptive salt tolerance in plants, assessing macro- and microevolutionary mechanisms, and the recently recognized role of ploidy and the microbiome on salinity adaptation. We synthesize insight specifically on naturally evolved adaptive salt-tolerance mechanisms, as these works move substantially beyond traditional mutant or knockout studies, to show how evolution can nimbly “tweak” plant physiology to optimize function. We then point to future directions to advance this field that intersect evolutionary biology, abiotic-stress tolerance, breeding, and molecular plant physiology.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 3, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 7, 2023
Publication Date Nov 13, 2023
Deposit Date Mar 10, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2023
Journal Plant Communications
Print ISSN 2590-3462
Electronic ISSN 2590-3462
Publisher Elsevier (Cell Press)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 6
Article Number 100571
Keywords Adaptation; salinity; polyploidy; microbiome; evolution; ecology
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