Compared to diploid plant, polyploid plants generally dominate in drought, high latitude or high altitude environment.
In Changbai Mountain of NE China, white birch (Betula plalyphylla) and yellow birch (Betula costata)are diploids, fast-growingcompanion trees in Broadleaved Korean pine forest.
White birch distributes in low elevations and is a dominant species in secondary forest after forest fire or forest felling. Betula dahurica and Betula ermanii are polyploids. B. dahurica is drought tolerant and a companion tree species in broad leaved Korean pine forest, and grows on dry sunny slopes or in dry mixed forest. B.ermanii absolutely dominates on high elevations. The habitat differentiation of the four species may be related to the enhanced stress resistance, especially the changes in water transport efficiency and cavitation resistance after chromosome doubling.
To illustrate the physiological mechanism of the habitat differentiation in four Betula tree species, the research group of Plant Physilogical Ecology of Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences compared the xylem hydraulic architecture of these four species in relation to their ability of maintaining water balance and competitive advantage.
The results show that B. ermanii and B. dahurica have significantly larger hydraulic weighted mean vessel diameters than the two diploids B. platyphylla and B. costata(45.1 and 45.5 vs 25.9 and 24.5 μm).
The two polyploids exhibited significantly higher resistance to drought-induced embolism than the two diploids (-5.23 and -5.05 vs -3.86 and -3.13 MPa) despite their larger vessel diameters.
The higher resistance may be related to the smaller pits. The increase in stress resistance co-occurs with the decrease in growth rate, implicating a trade off relations between stress resistance and growth rate.
This research revealed the effect of changes in chromosome ploidy to the hydraulics and mechanism, provided a base for better use of polyploidy plant.
The results were published in Tree Physiology entitled "Divergences in Hydraulic Architecture form an Important Basis for Niche Differentiation between Diploid and Polyploid Betula Species in NE China".
The work was supported by NNSFC, Key Research and Development Program of Ministry of Science and Technology, Frontier Key Research Program of CAS and One hundred Talent Program of CAS.