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Yoshida, L.C., J.A. Gamon, and C.P. Andersen. 2001. Differences in above- and below-ground responses to ozone between two populations of a perennial grass. Plant and Soil 233:203-211. NHEERL-COR-2181

Our study examined the influence of elevated ozone levels on the growth and mycorrhizal colonization of two populations of Elymus glaucus L. (blue wildrye). We hypothesized that ozone would reduce carbon availability to the plants, particularly below ground, and would affect mycorrhizal colonization. Because of the wide geographic range of E. glaucus, two populations of plants were selected from areas of contrasting ozone histories to examine intraspecies variation in response to ozone. Two populations of E. glaucus (southern California versus northern California) exposed in a factorial experiment involving ozone, mycorrhizal inoculation with Glomus intraradices Schenck and Smith, and plant source population. Ozone had a subtle effect on leaf area and number of tillers but did not affect overall root:shoot ratio in either population. The impact of ozone on above-ground growth characteristics was most pronounced in the southern population that came from a high-ozone environment, while below-ground responses such as reduced arbuscular colonization was most pronounced in the northern population which originated in a low-ozone environment. Further analysis of soil characteristics from the northern population of plants revealed a significant reduction in active soil bacterial biomass and an increase in total fungi per gram dry weight soil, suggesting a possible role for ozone in altering soil processes. Whether or not population differences in response to ozone were due to genetic shifts resulting from prior ozone remains to be determined. However, these subtle but important differences in population response to ozone above- and below-ground have significant implications in any attempt to generalize plant response, even within a species. Future research efforts need to include better characterization of intraspecific variation in response to ozone as well as possible adaptive strategies that may result from chronic ozone exposure.

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