3 years ago

Dying piece by piece: carbohydrate dynamics in aspen (Populus tremuloides) seedlings under severe carbon stress.

Erin Wiley, Simon M Landhäusser, Günter Hoch
Carbon starvation as a mechanism of tree mortality is poorly understood. We exposed seedlings of aspen (Populus tremuloides) to complete darkness at 20 or 28 °C to identify minimum non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations at which trees die and to see if these levels vary between organs or with environmental conditions. We also first grew seedlings under different shade levels to determine if size affects survival time under darkness due to changes in initial NSC concentration and pool size and/or respiration rates. Darkness treatments caused a gradual dieback of tissues. Even after half the stem had died, substantial starch reserves were still present in the roots (1.3-3% dry weight), indicating limitations to carbohydrate remobilization and/or transport during starvation in the absence of water stress. Survival time decreased with increased temperature and with increasing initial shade level, which was associated with smaller biomass, higher respiration rates, and initially smaller NSC pool size. Dead tissues generally contained no starch, but sugar concentrations were substantially above zero and differed between organs (~2% in stems up to ~7.5% in leaves) and, at times, between temperature treatments and initial, pre-darkness shade treatments. Minimum root NSC concentrations were difficult to determine because dead roots quickly began to decompose, but we identify 5-6% sugar as a potential threshold for living roots. This variability may complicate efforts to identify critical NSC thresholds below which trees starve.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erx342

DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erx342

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