Abstract

We assessed the effects of ambient tropospheric ozone on annual tree-ring growth, δ13C in the rings, leaf gas exchange and visible injury in three ozone-sensitive woody plant species in southern Switzerland. Seedlings of Populus nigra L., Viburnum lantana L. and Fraxinus excelsior L. were exposed to charcoal-filtered air (CF) and non-filtered air (NF) in open-top chambers, and to ambient air (AA) in open plots during the 2001 and 2002 growing seasons. Ambient ozone exposures in the region were sufficient to cause visible foliar injury, early leaf senescence and premature leaf loss in all species. Ozone had significant negative effects on net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance in all species in 2002 and in V. lantana and F. excelsior in 2001. Water-use efficiency decreased and intercellular CO2 concentrations increased in all species in response to ozone in 2002 only. The width and δ13C of the 2001 and 2002 growth rings were measured for all species at the end of the 2002 growing season. Compared with CF seedlings, mean ring width in the AA and NF P. nigra seedlings was reduced by 52 and 46%, respectively, in 2002, whereas in V. lantana and F. excelsior, ring width showed no significant reductions in either year. Although δ13C was usually more negative in CF seedlings than in AA and NF seedlings, with the exception of F. excelsior in 2001, ozone effects on δ13C were significant only for V. lantana and P. nigra in 2001. Among species, P. nigra exhibited the greatest response to ozone for the measured parameters as well as the most severe foliar injury and was the only species to show a significant reduction in ring width in response to ozone exposure, despite significant negative ozone effects on leaf gas exchange and the development of visible foliar injury in V. lantana and F. excelsior. Thus, significant ozone-induced effects at the leaf level did not correspond to reduced tree-ring growth or increased δ13C in all species, indicating that the timing of ozone exposure and severity of leaf-level responses may be important in determining the sensitivity of tree productivity to ozone exposure.