Growth and biomass partitioning of nine provenances of Quillaja saponaria seedlings to water stress
Information on the morphological and physiological responses of seedlings to stressors, such as water stress, is required for successful early establishment of seedlings. We examined provenance variation in morphological and physiological traits of Quillaja saponaria Molina seeds from nine provenances representing a latitudinal transect across the species range in Chile. The seedlings were subjected to two water regimes (well-watered vs water restriction) in a nursery experiment, and growth, biomass, survival, and gas exchange traits were measured. As expected, well-watered seedlings exhibited a superior performance in all traits analysed. Provenance effects were significant for most of the morphological and physiological traits. In the growth and biomass analysis, the northernmost provenance showed the lowest survival, growth and dry biomass, whereas in the gas exchange analysis, the southern interior provenance showed the highest net photosynthesis, transpiration, stomatal conductance and water use efficiency. The interaction between water regimes and provenance was only significant for diameter and net photosynthesis. These results indicate that different provenances of Q. saponaria show a stable performance across different controlled drought conditions. This information is of relevance for sourcing seeds for the restoration of the species.
Keywords: Mediterranean species, physiological performance, provenance effect, survival, water restriction