Prosopis ruscifolia is a pioneer tree species in flooding or saline areas. The aim of this work was to assess anatomical changes in roots and hypocotyls of P. ruscifolia seedlings induced to saline stress under controlled conditions. Seeds, collected in natural forests of Western Chaco region in Argentina, were sown on paper towels moisturized with saline solutions of 100, 200 and 300 mM of NaCl, and a control group with distilled water. Four repetitions of 50 seeds per treatment were sown, located in hermetic polystyrene boxes, and included in a seeding chamber, at 27 ºC and 12 hours photoperiod. Were studied 35 seedlings from each saline concentration; these seedlings were processed 12 days after sown to obtain microscopic samples. The anatomical variables measured in roots and hypocotyls were the following: main root diameter (µm), bark thickness (µm), number of cell strata in bark, central cylinder diameter (µm), pith diameter (µm), number of cell strata in the pericycle and the tangential diameter of vessels (µm). ANOVA analysis were performed with hypocotyl and root diameters as the dependent variable, and bark thickness (µm), number of cell strata in the bark, the central cylinder diameter (µm), the pith diameter (µm), number of cell strata in the pericycle, the tangential diameter of vessels and the saline concentration as independent variables. Results showed that the root diameter decreased with increasing saline concentrations (P < 0.0001). The bark thickness decreased at 100 mM (P < 0.0001) and the number of cell strata of bark increased to 300 mM (P < 0.0002). The central cylinder diameter decreased at 100 mM saline concentration (P < 0.0001) and the number of cell strata of the pericycle and the pith diameter reduced progressively until 300 mM. The tangential diameter of vessels decreased at 300 mM. These anatomical changes suggested alterations in the expansion and cell division caused by the salinity, and could limit lateral roots formation and reserves storage. Hypocotyls did not show significant anatomical changes in response to increasing salinity, with exception of stomata position and an increase of the hypodermis thickness. These changes indicated that the water stress imposed by low osmotic potential is caused by increasing saline concentration. The seedlings of P. ruscifolia experienced anatomical changes in response to tested saline concentrations in traits related to reserve storage, the absorption and conduction of water, and lateral roots formation.
Keywords: salinity tolerance, trees, seedlings, Prosopis ruscifolia, semiarid Chaco region.