Cold tolerance of black spruce, white spruce, jack pine, and lodgepole pine seedlings at different stages of spring dehardening

Abstract

Understanding tree vulnerability to freezing temperatures will help resource managers to mitigate the effects of climatic variability. To test the effectiveness of tissue dehardening curves to represent whole seedling responses, we tested the cold tolerance of 4 conifer species to a range of freezing temperatures, − 15, − 25, and − 35 °C in late March, and − 5, − 10, and − 15 °C in early May. Results show that, after a 30-min exposure to freezing temperatures, needle mortality started at − 25 °C in late March (early spring dehardening) before budbreak activation and at − 10 °C in early May (late spring dehardening) when pine buds had flushed and white spruce (Picea glauca) buds had started swelling. Freezing temperatures delayed the timing of budbreak; increased needle, terminal bud, and seedling mortality; and reduced shoot growth and number of top laterals. White spruce and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) were more sensitive to freezing in terms of needle, terminal bud, and seedling mortality and growth reduction. The effects of March freezing were generally detected in the first year, whereas those of the May freezing were still evident in the second year on the shoot growth of black spruce (Picea mariana) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana). Although they seem relatively hardier based on first year post-freezing assessments (i.e., less immediate physical damage from freezing), black spruce and jack pine may have sustained more internal or physiological shock/damage. Our study results support the use of tissue cold hardiness–forcing temperature relationships to assess the risk of freezing damage for conifer seedlings.

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modified from Man et al. 2017a, Fig. 6)

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Acknowledgements

We thank Darren Derbowka, Kevin Maloney, John Schnare, Sarah Isherwood, Jessica Mayer, and Jamie Fox of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) for their assistance during the study, and Lisa Buse, MNRF, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Conifer seedlings were provided by Tree Time Services Inc. /Coast to Coast Reforestation, Alberta, and Millson Forestry Service Inc., Ontario.

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Correspondence to Rongzhou Man.

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Man, R., Lu, P. & Dang, Q. Cold tolerance of black spruce, white spruce, jack pine, and lodgepole pine seedlings at different stages of spring dehardening. New Forests (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-020-09796-0

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Keywords

  • Spring dehardening
  • Freezing temperatures
  • Tissue cold hardiness
  • Boreal conifers