Accumulation of Aluminium (Al) at concentrations far above 1,000 mg kg-1 in aboveground plant tissues of Arbor aluminosa (Symplocos) species is the main reason why traditional Indonesian weavers rely on their leaves and bark as a mordant for dyeing textile. Recently, Symplocos species have become a flagship species for the conservation efforts of weaving communities due to their traditionally non-sustainable sampling and increasing demand for Symplocos plant material. Here we investigated Symplocos odoratissima, S. ophirensis and S. ambangensis at three montane rainforest sites in Central Sulawesi to measure Al levels in different tissues and organs. The highest Al concentrations were found in old leaves (24,180 ± 7,236 mg·kg-1 dry weight, mean ± SD), while young leaves had significantly lower Al levels (20,708 ± 7,025 mg·kg-1). Al accumulation was also lower in bark and wood tissue of the trunk (17,231 ± 8,356 mg·kg-1 and 5,181 ± 2,032 mg·kg-1, respectively). Two Al excluding species (Syzigium sp. and Lithocarpus sp.) contained only high Al levels in their roots. Moreover, no difference was found in soil pH (4.7 ± 0.61) and nutrient (K, Ca, Fe, Mg) availability at different soil levels and within or outside the crown of Symplocos trees, except for the upper soil layer. Furthermore, a positive and significant correlation between Al and Ca concentrations was found at the whole plant level for Symplocos, and at the leaf level for S. ophirensis and S. ambangensis, suggesting a potential role of Ca in Al uptake and/or detoxification within the plant. Our results provide evidence for strong Al accumulation in Symplocos species and illustrate that both Al accumulation and exclusion represent two co-occurring strategies of montane rainforest plants for dealing with Al toxicity. Indonesian weavers should be encouraged to harvest old leaves, which have the most efficient mordant capacity due to high Al concentrations.
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