Journal Article

Life strategies in intra-annual dynamics of wood formation: example of three conifer species in a temperate forest in north-east France

Henri E. Cuny, Cyrille B.K. Rathgeber, François Lebourgeois, Mathieu Fortin and Meriem Fournier

Edited by Annikki Mäkelä

in Tree Physiology

Volume 32, issue 5, pages 612-625
Published in print May 2012 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tps039
Life strategies in intra-annual dynamics of wood formation: example of three conifer species in a temperate forest in north-east France

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We investigated whether timing and rate of growth are related to the life strategies and fitness of three conifer species. Intra-annual dynamics of wood formation, shoot elongation and needle phenology were monitored over 3 years in five Norway spruces (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), five Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris L.) and five silver firs (Abies alba Mill.) grown intermixed. For the three species, the growing season (delimited by cambial activity onset and cessation) lasted about 4 months, while the whole process of wood formation lasted 5–6 months. Needle unfolding and shoot elongation followed the onset of cambial activity and lasted only one-third of the season. Pines exhibited an ‘extensive strategy’ of cambial activity, with long durations but low growth rates, while firs and spruces adopted an ‘intensive strategy’ with shorter durations but higher growth rates. We estimated that about 75% of the annual radial increment variability was attributable to the rate of cell production, and only 25% to its duration. Cambial activity rates culminated at the same time for the three species, whereas shoot elongation reached its maximal rate earlier in pines. Results show that species-specific life strategies are recognizable through functional traits of intra-annual growth dynamics. The opposition between Scots pine extensive strategy and silver fir and Norway spruce intensive strategy supports the theory that pioneer species are greater resource expenders and develop riskier life strategies to capture resources, while shade-tolerant species utilize resources more efficiently and develop safer life strategies. Despite different strategies, synchronicity of the maximal rates of cambial activity suggests a strong functional convergence between co-existing conifer species, resulting in head-on competition for resources.

Keywords: cambial activity; competition; functional trait; mixed stand; phenology; tree growth; wood formation

Journal Article.  8280 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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