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Effects of nickel and copper on growth and mycorrhiza of Scots pine seedlings inoculated with Gremmeniella abietina

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Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings were planted in soil originating from two localities with different background levels of nickel and copper. In addition, some of the seedlings were exposed to additional nickel (20.5 mg Ni/l of soil) or copper (63.5 mg Cu/l of soil), or a combination of both Ni and Cu, via soil without direct shoot exposure during their second growing period. The seedlings were either irrigated with spring water (pH 6) or got only natural rain during the whole field experiment. All seedlings were inoculated with conidia of a shoot-pathogen Gremmeniella abietina during their third growing season, and harvested the following spring. Lengths of shoots of different year-classes were used as growth estimates. In roots, the proportion of fungal (assumedly mycorrhizal) biomass was estimated by measuring ergosterol concentration. Guajacol peroxidase activity was measured. Short roots were classified into two groups according to their condition and the composition of the mycorrhizal community was expressed as a proportion of morphotypes in the roots. The seedlings exposed to additional Ni had higher shoot growth than the seedlings in the other treatments. The mean Ni concentration in the roots of seedlings exposed to additional Ni was 79 p.p.m. and in other seedlings 16 p.p.m. Additional Ni also decreased the frequency of clearly senescent short roots and the proportion of the mycorrhizal morphotype with the thinnest mantle. These results indicate that the Ni exposure levels used in this experiment had some positive effects on the seedlings. The relative fungal biomass was about 6% lower (p = 0.0981) in the fine roots of seedlings treated with additional Cu. The mean Cu concentration in the roots of seedlings exposed to additional Cu was 256 p.p.m. and in other seedlings 29 p.p.m. Peroxidase activity, which was used as a general stress indicator in this study, was not affected by any of the treatments. The shoot growth and the relative biomass of fungi in the fine roots were positively correlated in all seedlings, and this correlation was stronger in seedlings exposed to additional Ni that were not irrigated compared with seedlings not exposed to additional Ni that were irrigated. The frequency of asymptomatic infections of G. abietina was positively correlated with the proportion of senescent short roots in the irrigated seedlings but not in not-irrigated seedlings. The general condition of seedlings may be an important factor for infection by G. abietina when moisture is high enough for the fungi to infect seedlings by conidia.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Oulu, Oulu 2: Department of Biology and Kevo Subarctic Research Institute, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

Publication date: 2004-12-01

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