Screening for Salt and Water Stress Tolerance in Fir (Abies alba) Populations
Keywords:climate change; forests; growth parameters; salt stress; stress tolerance; water deficit
Drought periods are becoming more frequent and intense, due to the effects of climate change, threatening natural habitats worldwide, including European forests. Forest trees can also be affected by high soil salinity, because of the common practice of de-icing of mountain roads with NaCl in winter. We have evaluated the responses to salt and water stress of silver fir (Abies alba), an important forest species for which very limited information is available. One-year-old fir seedlings, with origin in seven different locations in Romania, were subjected to salt (watering with NaCl solutions of increasing concentrations) and water deficit (complete withholding of irrigation) treatments in the greenhouse. After one month, plant material was harvested and different morphological parameters were determined in the stressed and control plants. Both stress treatments inhibited growth of fir seedlings from all seven provenances, although quantitative differences in the responses to stress were observed between populations. Growth inhibition was established by the relative reduction – as compared to the non-stressed controls - in several parameters, such as stem elongation, root length, number of needles, or fresh weight and water content of roots and needles. Statistical multivariate analysis of the results suggested that seedlings from Valea Morii (population 6) were the most tolerant to both, water deficit and high (300 mM NaCl) salt concentrations. These results support the possibility to screen a large number of individuals from different populations, at the seedling stage, to select Abies alba genotypes with enhanced drought and/or salinity tolerance.
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