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The Impact of Elevated CO2 and Waterlogging on Sweet Cherry

Paper Reviewed
Pérez-Jiménez, M., Hernández-Munuera, M., Piñero, M.C., López-Ortega, G. and del Amor, F.M. 2018. Are commercial sweet cherry rootstocks adapted to climate change? Short-term waterlogging and CO2 effects on sweet cherry cv. 'Burlat.' Plant, Cell and Environment 41: 908-918.

One of the model-based climate predictions to result from increases in the atmosphere's CO2 content is that there will be an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events. Such events, if they occur, could lead to flooding and waterlogging of soils. Despite this possibility, Pérez-Jiménez et al. (2018) point out in their recently-published paper that "little has been written about the effect of CO2 on [this] contrary situation, waterlogging," adding that "this is an important gap in the literature." Thus, it became the objective of this group of five Spanish scientists to investigate the interactive effects of elevated CO2 and waterlogging on sweet cherry (Prunus avium) trees.

To accomplish their design, Pérez-Jiménez et al. subjected 1-year-old seedlings of the Burlat sweet cherry cultivar that was grafted onto one of three different rootstocks (Mariana 2624, Adara and LC 52) to three weeks of growth in a controlled-environment chamber of either 400 or 800 ppm CO2. After the first seven days, plants in each chamber were subjected to two additional treatments (1) a control treatment with normal daily irrigation, or (2) a waterlogging treatment where the water level was maintained at 4 cm above the surface of the soil. Seven days later, the waterlogged plants were drained and returned to the control conditions experienced during the first seven days of the study. Multiple parameters pertaining to plant water status and growth were measured during the experiment so that the scientists could evaluate the impact of elevated CO2 on the growth and survival of sweet cherry under waterlogging.

From a visual point of view, Pérez-Jiménez et al. report that waterlogging caused wilting, yellowing and browning of leaves at ambient CO2 levels, whereas trees in the elevated CO2 waterlogging treatment "continued to produce shoots and to grow." Waterlogging also "drastically decreased the rate of photosynthesis, significantly endangering plant survival [under ambient CO2 conditions]." In contrast, the authors report that elevated CO2 "increased photosynthesis and growth diameter and preserved turgor through the accumulation of soluble sugars and starch."

Given all of the above positive findings, Pérez-Jiménez et al. conclude that elevated CO2 "clearly enhance[s] the chance of survival under hypoxia."

Posted 2 June 2018