, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 104-114

Differentiation and structural decline in the leaves and bark of birch (Betula pendula) under low ozone concentrations

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Leaf and bark structure of a birch clone (Betula pendula Roth) continuously exposed to charcoal-filtered air or charcoal-filtered air plus ozone (0.05, 0.075, 0.1 μl 1-1) was investigated throughout one growing season. Increasing ozone dose influenced leaf differentiation by reducing leaf area and increasing inner leaf air space, density of cells developing into stomata, scales and hairs. When approximately the same ozone dose had been reached, macroscopical and microscopical symptoms appeared irrespective of the ozone concentration used during treatment. Structural decline began in mesophyll cells around stomatal cavities (droplet-like exudates on the cell walls), continued with disintegration of the cytoplasma and ended in cell collapse. Epidermal cells showed shrinkage of the mucilaginous layer (related to water loss). Their collapse marked the final stage of leaf decline. When subsidiary cells collapsed, guard cells passively opened for a transitory period before collapsing and closing. With increasing ozone dose starch remained accumulated along the small leaf veins and in guard cells. IIK-positive grains were formed in the epidermal cells. This contrasted with the senescent leaves, where starch was entirely retranslocated. Injury symptoms in stem and petiole proceeded from the epidermis to the cambium. Reduced tissue area indicated reduced cambial activity. In plants grown in filtered air and transferred into ozone on 20 August, injury symptoms developed faster than in leaves formed in the presence of ozone. Results are discussed with regard to O3-caused acclimation and injury mechanisms.