Indexed on: 01 Mar '03Published on: 01 Mar '03Published in: Trees
Woody plants in the temperate and boreal zone undergo annual cycle of growth and dormancy under seasonal changes. Growth cessation and dormancy induction in autumn are prerequisites for the development of substantial cold hardiness in winter. During evolution, woody plants have developed different ecotypes that are closely adapted to the local climatic conditions. In this study, we employed distinct photoperiodic ecotypes of silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) to elucidate differences in these adaptive responses under seasonal changes. In all ecotypes, short day photoperiod (SD) initiated growth cessation and dormancy development, and induced cold acclimation. Subsequent low temperature (LT) exposure significantly enhanced freezing tolerance but removed bud dormancy. Our results suggested that dormancy and freezing tolerance might partially overlap under SD, but these two processes were regulated by different mechanisms and pathways under LT. Endogenous abscisic acid (ABA) levels were also altered under seasonal changes; the ABA level was low during the growing season, then increased in autumn, and decreased in winter. Compared with the southern ecotype, the northern ecotype was more responsive to seasonal changes, resulting in earlier growth cessation, cold acclimation and dormancy development in autumn, higher freezing tolerance and faster dormancy release in winter, and earlier bud flush and growth initiation in spring. In addition, although there was no significant ecotypic difference in ABA level during growing season, the rates and degrees of ABA alterations were different between the ecotypes in autumn and winter, and could be related to ecotypic differences in dormancy and freezing tolerance.