Resin ducts as resistance traits in conifers: Linking dendrochronology and resin-based defences

Carla Vazquez-Gonzalez, Rafael Zas, Nadir Erbilgin, Scott Ferrenberg, Vicente Rozas, Luis Sampedro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Conifers have evolved different chemical and anatomical defences against a wide range of antagonists. Resin ducts produce, store and translocate oleoresin, a complex terpenoid mixture that acts as both a physical and a chemical defence. Although resin duct characteristics (e.g., number, density, area) have been positively related to biotic resistance in several conifer species, the literature reporting this association remains inconclusive. Axial resin ducts recorded in annual growth rings are an archive of annual defensive investment in trees. This whole-life record of defence investment can be analysed using standard dendrochronological procedures, which allows us to assess interannual variability and the effect of understudied drivers of phenotypic variation on resin-based defences. Understanding the sources of phenotypic variation in defences, such as genetic differentiation and environmental plasticity, is essential for assessing the adaptive potential of forest tree populations to resist pests under climate change. Here, we reviewed the evidence supporting the importance of resin ducts in conifer resistance, and summarized current knowledge about the sources of variation in resin duct production. We propose a standardized methodology to measure resin duct production by means of dendrochronological procedures. This approach will illuminate the roles of resin ducts in tree defence across species, while helping to fill pivotal knowledge gaps in plant defence theory, and leading to a robust understanding of the patterns of variation in resin-based defences throughout the tree's lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1326
Number of pages14
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020


  • Anatomical defences
  • Biotic resistance
  • Conifer defences
  • Genetic variation
  • Growth-defence trade-offs
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Resin canals
  • Tree-ring analysis


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