Effects of Air Pollutants on Epicuticular Wax Structure

  • Satu Huttunen
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 36)


In xerophytes, like conifers, the epicuticular wax is well developed. Especially in and around stomatal entrances, a thick wax coating is present. Epicuticular waxes are modified by changes in plant growth conditions such as temperature, relative humidity, irradiance, and wind, or acid rain. The fine structure of epicuticular waxes, their chemistry, and ecophysiological function are modified, especially in evergreen, long–lived conifer needles with characteristic crystalline wax structures. During needle flushing and development, wax structure is easily modified. Acid rain–treated Scots pine needles had 50% less epicuticular waxes in early August. Pollution–induced delayed development, destruction, and disturbances have been identified in many plant species. The structural changes in wax crystals are known. Acid rain or polluted air can destroy the crystalloid epicuticular waxes in a few weeks. In Pinus sylvestris, the first sign of pollution effect is the fusion of wax tubes. In Picea abies and P. sitchensis, modifications of crystalloid wax structure are known. In Californian pine trees phenomena of recrystallization of wax tubes on second–year needles were observed after delayed epicuticular wax development in Pinus ponderosa and P. coulteri. Thus, the effects of air pollutants are modified by climate.

Accelerated senescence of leaves and needles have been associated with natural and anthropogenic stresses. The accelerated erosion rate of epicuticular waxes has been measured under air pollution conditions. Many short–term air pollution experiments have failed to show any structural changes in epicuticular wax structures. The quantity and quality of needle waxes grown in open–top chambers, glass houses, or polluted air before treatment, differ from field conditions and make it difficult to detect effects of any treatment.


Simulated Acid Rain Conifer Needle Needle Surface Outer Epidermal Wall Accelerate Erosion Rate 
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Copyright information

© Springer–Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Satu Huttunen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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