The use of physiological, biochemical and morpho-anatomical traits in tree breeding for improved water-use efficiency of Quercus robur L.
National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology, Spain
Aim of study: In the present paper the nature and level of co-dependence between leaf functional traits and intrinsic water-use efficiency (WUEi) were studied in one-year-old Quercus robur L. seedlings, grown in a common garden experiment under moderate drought conditions. The study was established to identify those traits that might potentially be utilized to improve leaf-level WUEi, and therefore be used in breeding programmes to enhance drought adaptation of Q. robur. Area of study: The study was carried out at the common garden site within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube. Material and methods: The study involved one-year-old seedlings of eight half-sib lines of Q. robur. Eighteen leaf parameters were analyzed; i.e. physiological, biochemical, morphological and anatomical. The data were processed using multivariate statistical methods: a) principal component analysis, b) stepwise regression analysis, and c) path coefficient analysis. Main results: The results showed that leaf stomata traits, particularly stomatal density (SD), and leaf dry mass per unit leaf area (LMA) were the most important traits, closely associated with WUEi. Stomatal density achieved the highest score on PC1 (0.825), in which WUEi had the highest loading (0.920), as well. SD was also included first in stepwise regression model. Research highlights: These results demonstrate that under moderate water stress WUEi in Q. robur half-sib lines were mainly the result of the plants’ structural acclimation to surrounding environmental conditions.
Quercus robur L.; half-sib line; intrinsic water-use efficiency; leaf functional traits.