iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Size and age: intrinsic confounding factors affecting the responses to a water deficit in black spruce seedlings

Denis Walsh, Sergio Rossi   , Daniel Lord

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 8, Issue 4, Pages 401-409 (2014)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1412-007
Published: Dec 09, 2014 - Copyright © 2014 SISEF

Research Articles

The resistance to stress of seedlings during the initial phases after planting is fundamental for assuring fast establishment and long-term survival of artificial regeneration. Although needing less storage space and handling during their production and planting, small seedlings are considered to be less efficient in terms of water uptake and more sensitive to a water deficit than bigger seedlings. The responses to a water deficit produced by a suspension of irrigation for 14 days were assessed in black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.] BSP) seedlings of different sizes, with height ranging between 13 and 71 cm. Seedlings growing in containers with cavity volumes of 25, 50, 110, 350 cm3 were tested. During the treatment, the seedlings attained Ψpd of between -1.71 and -2.28 MPa, indicating that a severe water stress was reached. Smaller seedlings exhibited similar or higher water potential and gas exchanges than bigger seedlings both during and after the treatment. Although root biomass was higher in bigger seedlings, the growth rates of roots were similar between seedling sizes and were not affected by the water stress. The initial hypothesis that small seedlings are more sensitive to water stress was rejected. The delayed stomatal closure and higher CO2 assimilation rate of smaller seedlings during the treatment could be attributed to a lower shoot:root ratio and greater ability of roots to sustain the evaporative needs of needles, which could attain higher performances in carbon assimilation. The potential effects of confounding factors such as age and pre-treatment preventing to identify the main factor affecting drought tolerance in black spruce seedlings were discussed.


Artificial Regeneration, Boreal Forest, Containerized Plants, Planting, Water Stress

Authors’ address

Denis Walsh
Sergio Rossi
Daniel Lord
Département des Sciences Fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555 Boulevard de l’Université, Chicoutimi (QC), G7H2B1 (Canada)

Corresponding author

Sergio Rossi


Walsh D, Rossi S, Lord D (2014). Size and age: intrinsic confounding factors affecting the responses to a water deficit in black spruce seedlings. iForest 8: 401-409. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1412-007

Academic Editor

Giustino Tonon

Paper history

Received: Jul 30, 2014
Accepted: Oct 17, 2014

First online: Dec 09, 2014
Publication Date: Aug 02, 2015
Publication Time: 1.77 months

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