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Heatwave frequency and seedling death alter stress-specific emissions of volatile organic compounds in Aleppo pine

Benjamin Birami, Ines Bamberger, Andrea Ghirardo, Rüdiger Grote, Almut Arneth, Elizabeth Gaona-Colmán, Daniel Nadal-Sala, Nadine K. Ruehr
Oecologia 2021 v.197 no.4 pp. 939-956
Pinus halepensis, acetaldehyde, acetone, death, drought, gas exchange, heat stress, methanol, methyl salicylate, monoterpenoids, mortality, plant stress, seedlings, soil water content, temperature, transpiration, volatile organic compounds
Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOC) play important roles in plant stress responses and can serve as stress indicators. While the impacts of gradual environmental changes on BVOCs have been studied extensively, insights in emission responses to repeated stress and recovery are widely absent. Therefore, we studied the dynamics of shoot gas exchange and BVOC emissions in Pinus halepensis seedlings during an induced moderate drought, two four-day-long heatwaves, and the combination of drought and heatwaves. We found clear stress-specific responses of BVOC emissions. Reductions in acetone emissions with declining soil water content and transpiration stood out as a clear drought indicator. All other measured BVOC emissions responded exponentially to rising temperatures during heat stress (maximum of 43 °C), but monoterpenes and methyl salicylate showed a reduced temperature sensitivity during the second heatwave. We found that these decreases in monoterpene emissions between heatwaves were not reflected by similar declines in their internal storage pools. Because stress intensity was extremely severe, most of the seedlings in the heat-drought treatment died at the end of the second heatwave (dark respiration ceased). Interestingly, BVOC emissions (methanol, monoterpenes, methyl salicylate, and acetaldehyde) differed between dying and surviving seedlings, already well before indications of a reduced vitality became visible in gas exchange dynamics. In summary, we could clearly show that the dynamics of BVOC emissions are sensitive to stress type, stress frequency, and stress severity. Moreover, we found indications that stress-induced seedling mortality was preceded by altered methanol, monoterpene, and acetaldehyde emission dynamics.