Differences in the Response to Acute Drought and Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands Infection in Quercus ilex L. Seedlings
Ruiz Gómez, Francisco
Pérez de Luque, A.
Quero, José L.
Navarro Cerrillo, Rafael M.
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The sustainability of “dehesas” is threatened by the Holm oak decline. It is thought that the effects of root rot on plant physiology vary depending on external stress factors. Plant growth and biomass allocation are useful tools to characterize differences in the response to drought and infection. The study of physiological responses together with growth patterns will clarify how and to what extent root rot is able to damage the plant. A fully factorial experiment, including drought and Phytophtora cinnamomi Rands infection as factors, was carried out with Quercus ilex L. seedlings. Photosynthesis, biomass allocation and root traits were assessed. Photosynthetic variables responded differently to drought and infection over time. The root mass fraction showed a significant reduction due to infection. P. cinnamomi root rot altered the growth patterns. Plants could not recover from the physiological effects of infection only when the root rot coincided with water stress. Without additional stressors, the strategy of our seedlings in the face of root rot was to reduce the biomass increment and reallocate resources. Underlying mechanisms involved in plant-pathogen interactions should be considered in the study of holm oak decline, beyond the consideration of water stress as the primary cause of tree mortality.