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Journal Article

Reduction of isoprene emissions from live oak (Quercus fusiformis) with oak wilt

Authors: Anderson, LJ, PC Harley, RK Monson, RB Jackson

Many plants emit isoprene, a hydrocarbon that has important influences on atmospheric chemistry. Pathogens may affect isoprene fluxes, both through damage to plant tissue and by changing the abundance of isoprene-emitting species. Live oaks (Quercus fusiformis (Small) Sarg. and Q. virginiana Mill) are major emitters of isoprene in the southern United States, and oak populations in Texas are being dramatically reduced by oak wilt, a widespread fungal vascular disease. We investigated the effects of oak wilt on isoprene emissions from live oak leaves (Q. fusiformis) in the field, as a first step in exploring the physiological effects of oak wilt on isoprene production and the implications of these effects for larger-scale isoprene fluxes. Isoprene emission rates per unit dry leaf mass were 44% lower for actively symptomatic leaves than for leaves on healthy trees (P = 0.033). Isoprene fluxes were significantly negatively correlated with rankings of disease activity in the host tree (fluxes in leaves on healthy trees > healthy leaves on survivor trees > healthy leaves on the same branch as symptomatic leaves > symptomatic leaves, isoprene per unit dry mass: Spearman's rho = -0.781, P = 0.001, isoprene per unit leaf area: Spearman's rho = -0.652, P = 0.008). Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were reduced by 57% and 63%, respectively, in symptomatic relative to healthy leaves (P < 0.05); these reductions were proportionally greater than reductions in isoprene emissions. Low emission rates in symptomatic leaves are most simply explained by physiological constraints on isoprene production, such as water stress due to xylem blockage, rather than direct effects of the oak wilt fungus on isoprene synthesis. Leaves that had been exposed to oak wilt but did not have visible symptoms had slightly lower isoprene emissions than healthy leaves, but these effects are probably less important for regional isoprene fluxes than the reduction of oak leaf area across landscapes.

Journal Name
Tree Physiology
Publication Date