Identification of Salt Stress Biomarkers in Romanian Carpathian Populations of Picea abies (L.) Karst.

Autores UPV
Revista PLoS ONE


The Norway spruce (Picea abies), the most important tree species in European forests, is relatively sensitive to salt and does not grow in natural saline environments. Yet many trees are actually exposed to salt stress due to the common practice of de-icing of mountain roads in winter, using large amounts of NaCl. To help develop strategies for an appropriate use of reproductive seed material on reforestation sites, ensuring better chances of seedling survival in salt-affected areas, we have studied the responses of young spruce seedlings to salt treatments. The specific aim of the work was to identify the optimal salt stress biomarkers in Picea abies, using as experimental material seedlings obtained by germination of seeds with origin in seven populations from the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. These responses included general, conserved reactions such as the accumulation of ions and different osmolytes in the seedlings needles, reduction in photosynthetic pigments levels, or activation of antioxidant systems. Although changes in the contents of different compounds involved in these reactions can be associated to the degree of stress affecting the plants, we propose that the (decreasing) levels of total phenolics or total carotenoids and the (increasing) levels of Na+ or K+ ions in Picea abies needles, should be considered as the most reliable and useful biomarkers for salt stress in this species. They all show very high correlation with the intensity of salt stress, independently of the genetic background of the seeds parental population, and relatively easy, quantitative assays are available to determine their concentrations, requiring simple equipment and little amount of plant material.