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Environ Pollut. 2003;121(1):137-46.

Foliar response of an Ailanthus altissima clone in two sites with different levels of ozone-pollution.


Potted plants of Ailanthus altissima, produced by root suckers coming from a single symptomatic mother tree, were placed in two sites in the vicinity of Florence (central Italy), with different levels of ozone pollution. These plants were kept in well watered conditions during the period May-September 1999. In the high pollution site (Settignano-SET) the level of ozone exposure (AOT40) reached at the end of the season a value of 31 ppm h, whereas in the "low pollution" site (Cascine-CAS) the exposure to ozone was 11 ppm h. A. altissima showed foliar symptoms in early July at SET and in the second half of July at CAS when exposure values reached 5 ppm h at both sites. However, at the end of August the conditions of the plantlets were rather similar in both sites. Microscopic and ultrastructural analysis were performed at the first onset of symptoms at SET (the CAS leaflets were asymptomatic). Observing the upper leaf surface where the brown stipples were visible, it was found that the cells of the palisade mesophyll displayed loss of chlorophyll and the organelles in the cytoplasm were damaged. Swelling of thylacoids was observed in the CAS leaflets, thus indicating the possible onset of a pre-visual damage. The injured cells were separated from the healthy ones by a layer of callose. We conclude that the sensitivity to ozone of A. altissima leaves is related to its leaf structure, with low leaf density and large intercellular spaces. Cell walls, as well as acting as mechanical barriers against the spread of ozone within the cell, also provide important detoxifying processes.

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