Annals of Forest Science

, 76:71 | Cite as

Macro- and microscopic leaf injury triggered by ozone stress in beech foliage (Fagus sylvatica L.)

  • Pierre Vollenweider
  • Madeleine S. Günthardt-GoergEmail author
  • Terry Menard
  • Manuela Baumgarten
  • Rainer Matyssek
  • Marcus Schaub
Research Paper


Key message

The diversity of structural injury underlying visible symptoms by ozone stress resulted from the succession of degenerative processes and programmed-cell death events, depending on the ozone uptake and varying on a year-to-year basis.


The effects of tropospheric ozone (O3) on the vegetation will remain a lasting concern during the twenty-first century, and deeper understanding of functional and structural responses to O3 in plant foliage in a changing environment is needed.


Comprehensive analysis of the O3 injury spectrum, with a view to functional understanding of cellular processes in response to varying O3 doses.


Characterization of macro- and microscopic symptoms in the sun crown foliage of adult trees exposed to ambient and twice ambient O3 levels in a Free Air O3 Enrichment (FACE) experiment using light and electron microscopy.


Visible injury triggered by O3 resulted from (i) degenerative processes of varying severity (photobleaching, accelerated cell senescence, ACS), (ii) programmed cell death with disruption of cell content (hypersensitive reaction–like, HR-like) and occasional leakage of cellular debris into the apoplast, (iii) overlapping degenerative and disruptive processes, primarily in the upper mesophyll and within organelles prone to oxidative stress (chloroplasts and mitochondria) and (iv) necrosis in lower mesophyll with leakage of cellular debris in the intracellular space.


Especially the degenerative and disruptive traits showed contrasting structural features. In the case of stippling symptoms, the structural variability was particularly high, as a consequence of interactions between early degenerative and late disruptive processes. These findings thus confirmed the close dependency of processes—and a further spectrum of ozone injury—on rates of ozone uptake. Such relationships and development of injury, as observed in the case of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) foliage, are expected to be basically similar in other broadleaved tree species.


Ozone injury Cell degeneration Cell content disruption Chloroplast degeneration HR-like response Accelerated cell senescence Microscopic validation 



Technical assistance and support by PhD students, trainees and microscopy apprentices (sampling and characterization of visible and microscopic injury) and the Center for Microscopy and Image Analysis of the University of Zürich (electron microscopy) are gratefully acknowledged. Sampling in 2002 and 2003 by the PhD students Angela Nunn, Nina Koch and Markus Löw, technical assistance by trainees and microscopy apprentices and the Center for Microscopy and Image Analysis of the University of Zürich (transmission electron microscopy) are gratefully acknowledged.


The CASIROZ (Carbon Sink Strength of Beech in a Changing Environment: Experimental Risk Assessment of Mitigation by Chronic Ozone Impact) research project (face O3 fumigation in the Kranzberg forest) was supported by the European Commission – Research Directorate-General, Environment Programme, “Natural Resources Management and Services” (EVK2-2002-00165, Ecosystem Vulnerability). Further support was provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through SFB 607 “Growth and Parasite Defense – Competition for Resources in Economic Plants from Agronomy and Forestry”.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that there are no competing interests.


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© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest DynamicsSwiss Federal Research Institute WSLBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  2. 2.Ecophysiology of PlantsTU MϋnchenFreisingGermany

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