The effect of slope on root architecture and anatomy of Rumex scutatus L. was analysed in plants growing on slopes and on flat ground, on the flanks of Mt. Vesuvius. Roots of plants on steep slopes developed asymmetrically, with lateral roots growing upslope acting as tie-rods. In roots growing on flat ground, lignified xylem was limited to thin radial strips, surrounded by unlignified parenchyma cells filled with starch. A trend towards a larger lignified area was evident from plants growing on flat ground to those on steep slopes, as well as from taproots to tie-rod roots. The latter also showed larger vessels and a lower incidence of narrow vessels than taproots. Roots developing on steep slopes were characterised by high frequency of very-thick-walled, lignified fibres with long tips which accumulated both starch and phenolic compounds. Such fibres did not show lignified cell walls in roots growing on flat ground. Overall analysis showed that slope influences root architecture and anatomical traits, not only affecting mechanical properties but also water transport capacity.
Characterisation of anatomical properties and analysis of lignin content and monomer composition were performed on twigs of the shrub Rhamnus californica L. in order to highlight their role in the adaptive strategies of this species in Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Our results showed that R. californica twigs develop a thick cuticle accompanied by several layers of subepidermal cells with suberised walls aiming to save water. The xylem is characterised by anatomical and chemical traits ensuring safety of water transport and preventing permanent damage through the enhancement of mechanical strength, also favoured by the lignification of pith cell walls. Moreover, the accumulation of phenolic compounds in the cortical cylinder is a strategy to protect against herbivory and to screen against high levels of radiation. Our overall analysis suggests that R. californica has evolved a strategy of shoot development that allows it to cope with the multiple environmental stresses found in Mediterraneantype ecosystems, among which summer drought and grazing play a major role especially for the survival of seedlings and young plants.
Mediterranean trees and shrubs form intra-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) in tree rings as a sign of their plasticity in wood formation in response to intraseasonal variations of environmental conditions. Different species show a different aptitude to form IADFs, due to their diverse ability to cope with climate stressors, since the occurrence of IADFs may affect plant hydraulics. Dendroecology and quantitative wood anatomy were used to characterise IADFs in Pinus pinea and Arbutus unedo co-occurring at a Mediterranean site in Italy. The relations between climate parameters (i.e. temperature and precipitation) and intra-annual tree-ring traits (i. e. IADF frequency and conduit size) were analysed to highlight the main triggers for IADF formation and their functional role.
Data showed that both species are characterised by a high plastic response to climate and formed a high frequency of L-IADFs (occurrence of earlywoodlike conduits in latewood). The two species, although forming the same type of IADFs, showed different sensitivity to environmental factors. Pinus pinea showed a high dependence of tracheid size on temperature, while Arbutus unedo was more sensitive to precipitation in spring and autumn. Arbutus unedo promptly developed more than one IADF per year in response to rainfall events following drought periods.
The overall results were useful to compare the aptitude of the two species in forming IADFs and to highlight the factors priming their formation. This is useful to understand wood growth reactions to environmental drivers and to evaluate the adaptive capabilities in these two species, and thus to predict forest reactions after climate changes.
Peatland ecosystems are an important archive of paleoclimatic information. Within this context, tree-ring data from trees growing in such ecosystems are extremely valuable resources, and subfossil trees from peat bogs have been widely employed in dendroclimatological studies. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of the relationships among tree growth, peatland hydrology and climate factors. Here, we summarize the principal studies on living peatland trees, with a particular focus on their use as a source of information on past climatic conditions. We discuss the main factors influencing tree growth in this environment, whether it is the local hydrological cycle or climate. We put a particular focus on the reliability of the climate signal recorded by living peatland trees, comparing it with that found in subfossil trees. Finally, we discuss the relevance of quantitative wood anatomy in the context of peatland ecosystems research.
The transcriptional activator EgMYB2, which belongs to the large R2R3 MYB transcription factor family, plays a major role in the coordinated control of genes in the lignin biosynthetic pathway. Given that lignin genetic modification can lead to xylem alterations compromising vascular functionality, we characterised wood anatomical properties of two transgenic tobacco lines over-expressing EgMYB2, using light, fluorescence, confocal, transmission electron microscopy, immunocytochemical labelling and digital image analysis. Transgenic wood, compared with wild type, was characterised by both reduced frequency of larger vessels and lower vessel grouping; these traits are known to have physiological implications in terms of water transport efficiency and safety against embolism. Transgenic wood also appeared denser due to the occurrence of thicker cell walls and higher incidence of fibres than wild type. Increased lignin content was accompanied by a concomitant increase in cellulose and xylan, but no alterations in the usual distribution of guaiacyl and syringyl units in secondary cell walls were observed. Altogether, these results show that EgMYB2 is a master regulator controlling the synthesis of the three major polymers of the secondary cell wall and that its overexpression has significant influence on quantitative anatomical traits of wood which affect its functional properties.
Projected changes in drought occurrence in the Mediterranean region are raising concerns about the adaptive capability of rainfed crops, such as grapevine, to increasing aridity. Cultivation management, especially the techniques influencing the hydraulic pathway, can play a role in plant adaptation to drought for the consequent changes in wood anatomical functional traits. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of grafting on wood anatomy in tree-ring series of Vitis vini-fera L. ‘Piedirosso’ grapevine cultivated in a volcanic area in Southern Italy. Tree-ring anatomy was analysed in vines grown on their own roots or grafted onto 420A rootstock. Results showed that grafted vines had a higher occurrence of wood traits linked with safety of water transport if compared with non-grafted vines. Grafting induced the formation of tree rings with higher incidence of latewood also characterised by narrower and more frequent vessels if compared with non-grafted vines. This study suggested a different regulation of water flow in the grafted and non-grafted vines. Such findings support the analysis of wood anatomy as a tool to drive decisions linked with plant cultivation management. In this specific case, our results encourage to further explore the change from a traditional cultivation with own-rooted grapevines towards grafted models inducing better xylem adaptation to increasing drought.
This study is a continuation of research on the role of sucrose in figured wood formation in temperate trees. Different concentrations of sucrose solutions were administered for 7 weeks to trunk tissues of Betula pendula Roth, Alnus incana (L.) Moench and Populus tremula L. Then xylem anatomy was examined with particular emphasis to the number of vessels and the spatial orientation of xylem elements. In B. pendula and A. incana a high level of exogenous sucrose caused a reduction in the number and size of xylem vessels, even to the point of absence of vessels. Sucrose concentrations of 100 and 200 g l-1 induced the formation of curly grain and anomalous club-shaped rays in xylem of B. pendula. Populus tremula xylem was not significantly altered by the experiment; the xylem anatomy was more seriously affected by wounding than by sucrose. In B. pendula and A. incana the wood formed during the experiment was similar to figured wood of these species. The decrease in the number and size of vessels in the xylem formed during the experiment possibly suggests that high concentrations of sucrose lead to a decline in the level of physiologically active auxin. Changes in the orientation of xylem elements points to a disruption of basipetal auxin transport. Further biochemical and physiological studies are needed to provide more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between sucrose and auxin during the development of figure in wood.
The use of automated techniques for image analysis of microscopic wood specimens together with new procedures for the preparation of stained xylem tissue support the use of quantitative wood anatomy. These techniques and procedures are especially useful in the studies of retrospective analysis of xylem phenology, reaction(s) of trees to stressful conditions of growth, or reconstruction of long-term growth trends. The unresolved technical problems during the digitalization of cross sections from entire increment cores were stabilization and precise shifting of long microscopic specimens onto the optical microscope stage. For this reason, we have developed a long slide holder for microscope stages in two versions: the basic one allowing stabilization and manual shifting, and the advanced one for stabilization and mechanical shifting. Both versions of the adapter speed up the work with long slides, improving the quality of panoramic images of microscopic specimens.