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Environ Pollut. 1997;98(1):91-5.

Accelerated dehardening in bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) induced by a small elevation in air temperature.

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Department of Biology, Botany, PO Box 333, University of Oulu, FIN-90571 Oulu, Finland.


The effect of climatic warming on the dehardening potential of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) in a northern boreal environment (65 degrees N) was studied. Natural stands of bilberry were heated artificially in winter. No reference point for the heating was set, since the purpose was to follow the fluctuations in ambient air temperatures. These were 2-3 degrees C higher in the heated plots than in the control plots from October to May. Frost resistance (LT50) and the pH of cell effusate were monitored throughout. Bud phenology was assessed in May and related to various biochemical analyses, including glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch and total and reduced glutathione. Frost resistance started to decrease earlier in the heated plants, as did the pH of the cell effusate. Bud phenology was in accordance with the LT50 and pH results, since new growth had emerged in the heated plants by the beginning of May, when the controls still displayed dormancy. Concentrations of glucose, fructose and sucrose were significantly lower in the heated bilberries while concentrations of starch were higher. The heated plants also exhibited the lowest glutathione concentrations, but the difference was only marginal. The redox state of glutathione showed no difference between the treatments. The results suggest that a small elevation in air temperature can accelerate dehardening in the bilberry. It is thus concluded that climatic warming may entail a real risk of early dehardening and further frost damage for the bilberry.

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