Journal Article

Effects of duration of a simulated winter thaw on dieback and xylem conductivity of <i>Betula papyrifera</i>

R. M. Cox and J. W. Malcolm

in Tree Physiology

Volume 17, issue 6, pages 389-396
Published in print June 1997 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online June 1997 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
Effects of duration of a simulated winter thaw on dieback and xylem conductivity of Betula papyrifera

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Stems or roots + stems of potted, 2-year-old paper birch (Betula papyrifera L.) were subjected to simulated winter thaws of various durations in climate-controlled chambers. The simulated thaws induced dieback of shoots of the treated plants. Although the stem thaw treatment did not significantly increase dieback, there were significant (P < 0.05) correlations between growing degree days above 4 °C and both shoot dieback and percent reduction in conductive xylem. All trees that received > 60 growing degree days (GDD) > 4 °C died back to some extent. Plants in the root + stem thaw treatment that received more than 60 GDD > 4 °C showed a significant (P < 0.05) increase in dieback and a significant (P < 0.05) loss of conducting xylem after a period of growth and recovery in the greenhouse, especially in the xylem of 1-year-old stems. Furthermore, higher correlations between GDD > 4 °C during a thaw and both the extent of dieback and the loss in conductive xylem were found in trees subjected to the root + stem thaw treatments than in trees exposed only to the stem thaw treatments (P < 0.05). The root + stem thaw treatments also resulted in highly significant relationships (P < 0.05–0.001) between loss in conductive xylem and dieback. The occurrence of dieback in response to winter thaws, and its close correlation with irreversible losses of xylem conductivity due to embolisms, coupled with an inability to refill the xylem because of root damage, support the view that these processes may be key factors in initiating birch decline.

Keywords: bud expansion; embolism; paper birch; root damage

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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