Etiology of Premature Needle Shedding in Geographically Diverse Pinus sylvestris Populations
R. Żytkowiak1, K. Przybył1, P. Karolewski1, J. Oleksyn1,2
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1Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Dendrology, Parkowa 5, 62-035 Kórnik, Poland
2University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources, 1530 Cleveland Ave. N. St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 2005;14(3):357-364
At the end of July 1997 a premature shedding of one- and two-year-old foliage of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) was observed in central Poland. We examined the etiology and physiological consequences of this needle shedding event in a 15-year-old Scots pine plantation with diverse populations originating from Sweden, Russia, Latvia, Poland, Germany and France. On average, trees lost 20% of two-year-old foliage, with a local population from Poland having the highest needle loss (28%) and the lowest in a population from France (13%). However, differences among populations in needle loss were only marginally significant (p = 0.1). Phytopathological observations excluded biotic factors as responsible for needle loss. Analysis of thermal conditions in 1997 suggest that premature needle shedding may originate from the combination of winter physiological drought and unusually high (up to 35°C) air temperatures and low precipitation in late spring. We found that winter drought significantly affected the foliage by reducing its water content and concentration of nonstructural carbohydrates. High summer temperatures increased water stress and as a consequence led to reduction in crown density. Our data indicated that the needle shedding may be also related to root system damage due to low soil temperatures. Marginally significant differences among populations in needle shedding may indicate a weak genetic control over premature needle-fall among European Scots pine populations.
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