Journal Article

Xylem hydraulic adjustment and growth response of <i>Quercus canariensis</i> Willd. to climatic variability

G. Gea-Izquierdo, P. Fonti, P. Cherubini, D. Martín-Benito, H. Chaar and I. Cañellas

Edited by Roberto Tognetti

in Tree Physiology

Volume 32, issue 4, pages 401-413
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tps026
Xylem hydraulic adjustment and growth response of Quercus canariensis Willd. to climatic variability

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Global change challenges forest adaptability at the distributional limit of species. We studied ring-porous Quercus canariensis Willd. xylem traits to analyze how they adjust to spatio-temporal variability in climate. Trees were sampled along altitudinal transects, and annual time series of radial growth (ring width (RW)) and several earlywood vessel (EV) traits were built to analyze their relationships with climate. The trees responded to increasing water constraints with decreasing altitude and changes in climate in the short term but the analyses showed that xylem did not acclimate in response to long-term temperature increase during the past 30 years. The plants' adjustment to climate variability was expressed in a different but complementary manner by the different xylem traits. At low elevations, trees exhibited higher correlations with water stress indices and trees acclimated to more xeric conditions at low elevations by reducing radial growth and hydraulic diameter (DH) but increasing the density of vessels (DV). Average potential conductivity (KH) was similar for trees at different altitudes. However, inter-tree differences in xylem traits were higher than those between altitudes, suggesting a strong influence of individual genetic features or micro-site conditions. Trees exhibited higher RW those years with larger DH and particularly the linear density of vessels (DVl), but partly, climatic signals expressed in RW differed from those in EVs. Trees produced larger DH after cold winters and wet years. Ring width responded positively to wet and cool weather in fall and spring, whereas the response to climate of DV and KH was generally opposite to that of RW. These relationships likely expressed the negative impact of high respiration rates in winter on the carbon pools used to produce the EVs in the next spring and the overall positive influence of water availability for trees. Our results showed that trees at different sites were able to adjust their hydraulic architecture to climatic variability and temperature increase during recent decades coordinating several complementary traits. Nonetheless, it should be monitored whether they will succeed to acclimate to future climatic scenarios of increasing water stress.

Keywords: conductivity; dendroecology; global warming; Mediterranean; tree-rings; vessels

Journal Article.  6171 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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