The combined effects of ozone, sulfur dioxide and simulated acid rain on the growth of three forest tree species

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Nine-week-old yellow-poplar and green and white ash were exposed to various concentrations of O₃ (0.00 to 0.15 ppm) and/or SO₂ (0.08 ppm), 4 hr/d, 5d/wk in combination with simulated rain (pHs 5.6, 4.3, 3.0), 1 hr/d, 2 d/wk, for 5 or 6 wk under controlled laboratory conditions. Pollutant exposures resulted in alterations in seedling biomass accumulation, growth rates, changes in carbon allocation among plant parts and modification in physiological processes associated with gas exchange. Ozone (0.010 ppm) and SO₂ together caused a significant decrease in height growth and biomass and an increase in leaf area ratio (LAR) in yellow-poplar. Ozone and SO₂ exposures resulted in linear decreases and increases, respectively, in root dry weight, leaf area increase, relative growth rates of all yellow-poplar plant parts and unit leaf rate with decreasing rain pH. Chlorophyll content increased in both O₃ and SO₂ treatments with increasing rain acidity. In green and white ash experiments height growth was inhibited by O₃, SO₂ and O₃ + SO₂ for green ash, whereas only leaf dry weight was decreased by O₃ exposure in white ash. Decreasing rain pH resulted in linear decreases in root/shoot ratio (RSR) and LAR, for white ash. In green ash, a quadratic response to rain pH occurred with these growth variables. Ozone and O₃ + SO₂-treated green ash exhibited a significant quadratic response in leaf weight ratio with increasing rain acidity. Leaf area ratio and RSR exhibited linear increases and decreases, respectively, for O₃ and rain acidity. In SO₂-treated white ash with increasing white ash and yellow-poplar seedlings exposed to various O₃ concentrations and simulated rain for 5 and 6 weeks, respectively, increasing O₃ concentrations caused linear decreases in height and biomass of white ash. Linear decreases in root growth rate and biomass and RSR occurred with decreasing rain pH, across O₃ treatments. Ozone (0.05 or 0.10 ppm) caused linear decreases in these variables in combination with increasing rain acidity. For yellow-poplar, increasing O₃ concentrations caused linear increases in RSR and specific leaf area. At 0.05 and 0.10 ppm O₃, stem and leaf biomass, their relative growth rates and leaf area all decreased with decreasing rain pH. Ozone (0.10 ppm) exposure caused a decrease in stomatal conductance, and decreasing variable. rain pH resulted in a linear decrease in this A linear decrease in net photosynthesis also occurred with increasing rain acidity in O₃-treated (0.10 ppm) plants. These results demonstrate that gaseous pollutants in combination with simulated acid rain can have detrimental effects on growth of three forest tree species, under controlled laboratory conditions.