, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 109-122

Relationships among foliar chemistry, foliar polyamines, and soil chemistry in red spruce trees growing across the northeastern United States

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Forest trees are constantly exposed to various types of natural and anthropogenic stressors. A major long-term goal of our research is to develop a set of early physiological and biochemical markers of stress in trees before the appearance of visual symptoms. Six red spruce (t Picea rubens Sarg.) stands from the northeastern United States were selected for collection of soil and foliage samples. All of the chosen sites had soil solution pH values below 4.0 in the Oa horizon but varied in their geochemistry. Some of these sites were apparently under some form of environmental stress as indicated by a large number of dead and dying red spruce trees. Samples of soil and needles (from apparently healthy red spruce trees) were collected from these sites four times during a two-year period. The needles were analyzed for perchloric acid-soluble polyamines and exchangeable inorganic ions. Soil and soil solution samples from the Oa and B horizons were analyzed for their exchange chemistry. The data showed a strong positive correlation between Ca and Mg concentrations in the needles and in the Oa horizon of the soil. However, needles from trees growing on relatively Ca-rich soils with a low exchangeable Al concentration and a low Al:Ca soil solution ratio had significantly lower concentrations of putrescine and spermidine than those growing on Ca-poor soils with a high exchangeable Al concentration and a high Al:Ca soil solution in the Oa horizon. The magnitude of this change was several fold higher for putrescine concentrations than for spermidine concentrations. Neither putrescine nor spermidine were correlated with soil solution Ca, Mg, and Al concentrations in the B horizon. The putrescine concentrations of the needles always correlated significantly with exchangeable Al (r2=0.73, t p≤0.05) and soil solution Al:Ca ratios (r2=0.91, t p≤0.01) of the Oa horizon. This suggests that in conjunction with soil chemistry, putrescine and/or spermidine may be used as a potential early indicator of Al stress before the appearance of visual symptoms in red spruce trees.