Journal Article

The influence of climate and fructification on the inter-annual variability of stem growth and net primary productivity in an old-growth, mixed beech forest

M. Mund, W.L. Kutsch, C. Wirth, T. Kahl, A. Knohl, M.V. Skomarkova and E.-D. Schulze

in Tree Physiology

Volume 30, issue 6, pages 689-704
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
The influence of climate and fructification on the inter-annual variability of stem growth and net primary productivity in an old-growth, mixed beech forest

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The periodic production of large seed crops by trees (masting) and its interaction with stem growth has long been the objective of tree physiology research. However, very little is known about the effects of masting on stem growth and total net primary productivity (NPP) at the stand scale. This study was conducted in an old-growth, mixed deciduous forest dominated by Fagus sylvatica (L.) and covers the period from 2003 to 2007, which comprised wet, dry and regular years as well as two masts of Fagus and one mast of the co-dominant tree species Fraxinus excelsior (L.) and Acer pseudoplatanus (L.). We combined analyses of weather conditions and stem growth at the tree level (inter- and intra-annual) with fruit, stem and leaf production, and estimates of total NPP at the stand level. Finally, we compared the annual demand of carbon for biomass production with net canopy assimilation (NCA), derived from eddy covariance flux measurements, chamber measurements and modelling. Annual stem growth of Fagus was most favoured by warm periods in spring and that of Fraxinus by high precipitation in June. For stem growth of Acer and for fruit production, no significant relationships with mean weather conditions were found. Intra-annual stem growth of all species was strongly reduced when the relative plant-available water in soil dropped below a threshold of about 60% between May and July. The inter-annual variations of NCA, total NPP and leaf NPP at the stand level were low (mean values 1313, 662 and 168 g C m−2 year−1, respectively), while wood and fruit production varied more and contrarily (wood: 169–241 g C m−2 year−1; fruits: 21–142 g C m−2 year−1). In all years, an annual surplus of newly assimilated carbon was calculated (on average 100 g C m−2 year−1). The results suggest that stem growth is generally not limited by insufficient carbon resources; only in mast years a short-term carbon shortage may occur in spring. In contrast to common assumption, stem growth alone is not a sufficient proxy for total biomass production or the control of carbon sequestration by weather extremes.

Keywords: Acer pseudoplatanus; carbon allocation; carbon balance; drought; Fagus sylvatica; Fraxinus excelsior; masting; resource limitation; stem growth; unmanaged forest

Journal Article.  9504 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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