The Effect of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Infestation on Water Relations of Carolina and Eastern Hemlock

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Title: The Effect of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Infestation on Water Relations of Carolina and Eastern Hemlock
Author: Walker-Lane, Laura Newman
Advisors: John Frampton, Committee Chair
John King, Committee Member
Fred Hain, Committee Member
Jean-Christophe Domec, Committee Member
Abstract: In North America, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA; Adelges tsugae Annand) is an exotic insect pest from Asia that is causing severe decimation of native eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr.) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana Engelm.). Extensive research has been committed to the ecological impacts and potential control measures of HWA, but the exact physiological mechanisms that cause tree decline and mortality are not known. Eastern and Carolina hemlock may be reacting to infestation in a manner similar to the response of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri (Pursh.) Poir.) to infestation by balsam woolly adelgid (BWA; Adelges picea Ratz.). It is known that Fraser fir produces abnormal xylem in response to BWA feeding. This abnormal xylem obstructs water movement within the trees, causing Fraser fir to die of water-stress. In this study, water relations within 15 eastern and Carolina hemlock were evaluated to determine if infestation by HWA was causing water-stress. Water potential, carbon-13 isotope ratio, stem conductivity, and stomatal conductance measurements were conducted on samples derived from those trees. In addition, branch samples were analyzed for possible wood anatomy alterations as a result of infestation. Pre-dawn branch water potential (Ψ) measurements were more negative in infested hemlock than in non-infested trees. Carbon isotope ratios (normalized δ13C vs. VPDB) of the branches were more positive for infested trees, while stomatal conductance (gs) was lower in infested trees. These results indicate that infested eastern and Carolina hemlock are experiencing drought-like symptoms. Wood anatomy of the branches provided evidence that infested hemlocks are experiencing abnormal wood production in the xylem.
Date: 2009-01-29
Degree: MS
Discipline: Forestry

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