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Tree Physiol. 2011 Nov;31(11):1175-82. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpr101. Epub 2011 Oct 10.

Genotypic variability and phenotypic plasticity of cavitation resistance in Fagus sylvatica L. across Europe.

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INRA, UMR 547 PIAF, F-63100 Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Xylem cavitation resistance is a key physiological trait correlated with species tolerance to extreme drought stresses. Little is known about the genetic variability and phenotypic plasticity of this trait in natural tree populations. Here we measured the cavitation resistance of 17 Fagus sylvatica populations representative of the full range of the species in Europe. The trees were grown in three field trials under contrasting climatic conditions. Our findings suggest that the genotypic variability of cavitation resistance is high between genotypes of a given population. By contrast, no significant differences were found for this trait across populations, the mean population cavitation resistance being remarkably constant in each trial. We found a significant site effect and a significant site × population interaction, suggesting that cavitation resistance has a high phenotypic plasticity and that this plasticity is under genetic control. The implications of our findings for beech forest management in a context of climate change are discussed.

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