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Stem hypoxia and root respiration of flooded maple and birch seedlings


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Some researchers have attributed flood tolerance of woody plants to air entering the shoot through stems, leaves, or lenticels and diffusing to the roots to sustain aerobie respiration. The purpose of this study was to determine if internal aeration of roots by lower stems, changes in gross morphology of lower stems, or both, contribute to flood tolerance of certain tree species. Greenhouse-grown seedlings of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and river birch (Betula nigra L.) tolerated at least 30 days of flooding, where as sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh) and European white birch (also called silver birch, Betula pendula Roth) were intolerant. Flood treatment induced lentieel intumescences and adventitious root formation on red maple stems, but only adventitious roots formed on river birch stems. Stem morphology of sugar maple and European birch was unchanged by flooding. Flood stress decreased oxygen consumption capacity of excised roots from both tolerant and intolerant species. Exclusion of oxygen from the lower stems of flooded red maple and river birch prevented lenticel intumescence and adventitious root formation, but flood tolerance and root respiration capacity were unchanged. Neither internal aeration nor changes in stem morphology appear to account for flood tolerance of red maple and river birch.