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1.  Cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra and Pinus sylvestris at their climatic limits in the Eastern Alps in 2007 
Phyton; annales rei botanicae  2011;51(2):299-313.
It has been frequently stressed that at distributional boundaries, like at the Alpine timberline and within dry inner Alpine environments, tree growth will be affected first by changing climate conditions. Climate in 2007 was characterized by the occurrence of exceptionally mild temperatures in spring (3.4 and 2.7 °C above long-term mean (LTM) at timberline and the valley sites, respectively) with an almost continuous drought period recorded in April and slightly warmer than average temperatures throughout summer (1.3 °C above LTM at both sites).
We compared temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra at the Alpine timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) and Pinus sylvestris at a xeric inner Alpine site (750 m a.s.l.) by repeated cellular analyses of micro-cores (n = 5 trees/site). While onset of wood formation in P. sylvestris and P. cembra differed by about two weeks (12 and 27 April, respectively), maximum daily growth rates peaked on 6 May at the valley site and on 23 June at timberline. At both sites maximum tracheid production was reached prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions during summer, i.e. an increase in precipitation and temperature. Xylem formation ended on 31 August and 28 October at the xeric site and at timberline, respectively.
This study demonstrates the plasticity of tree-ring formation along an altitudinal transect in response to water availability and temperature. Whether early achievement of maximum growth rates is an adaptation to cope with extreme environmental conditions prevailing at limits of tree growth needs to be analysed more closely by taking belowground carbon allocation into account.
PMCID: PMC3837289  PMID: 24273354
Alpine timberline; cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; Stone pine; wood anatomy; xylogenesis
2.  Climatic influences on intra-annual stem radial increment of Pinus sylvestris (L.) exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2010;24(5):887-898.
Within a dry inner Alpine valley in the Eastern Central Alps (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) the influence of climate variables (precipitation, air humidity, temperature) and soil water content on intra-annual dynamics of tree-ring development was determined in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) at two sites differing in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site). Radial stem development was continuously followed during 2007 and 2008 by band dendrometers and repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree rings of mature trees. Daily and seasonal fluctuations of the stem radius, which reached almost half of total annual increment, primarily reflected changes in tree water status and masked radial stem growth especially during drought periods in spring. However, temporal dynamics of intra-annual radial growth determined by both methods were found to be quite similar, when onset of radial growth in dendrometer traces was defined by the occurrence of first enlarging xylem cells. Radial increments during the growing period, which lasted from early April through early August showed statistically significant relationships with precipitation (Kendall τ = 0.234, p < 0.01, and τ = 0.184, p < 0.05, at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively) and relative air humidity (Pearson r = 0.290, p < 0.05, and r = 0.306, p < 0.05 at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively). Soil water content and air temperature had no influence on radial stem increment. Culmination of radial stem growth was detected at both study plots around mid-May, prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions, i.e. an increase in precipitation during summer. We suggest that the early decrease in radial growth rate is due to a high belowground demand for carbohydrates to ensure adequate resource acquisition on the drought prone substrate.
PMCID: PMC3191526  PMID: 22003269
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
3.  Effects of environmental conditions on onset of xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris under drought 
Tree physiology  2011;31(5):483-493.
We determined influence of environmental factors (air and soil temperature, precipitation, photoperiod) on onset of xylem growth in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) within a dry inner Alpine valley (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) by repeatedly sampling micro-cores throughout 2007-2010 at two sites (xeric and dry-mesic) at the start of the growing season. Temperature sums were calculated in degree-days (DD) ≥ 5 °C from 1 January and 20 March, i.e. spring equinox, to account for photoperiodic control of release from winter dormancy. Threshold temperatures at which xylogenesis had a 0.5 probability of being active were calculated by logistic regression. Onset of xylem growth, which was not significantly different between the xeric and dry-mesic site, ranged from mid-April in 2007 to early May in 2008. Among most study years statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) in onset of xylem growth were detected. Mean air temperature sums calculated from 1 January until onset of xylem growth were 230 ± 44 DD (mean ± standard deviation) at the xeric and 205 ± 36 DD at the dry-mesic site. Temperature sums calculated from spring equinox until onset of xylem growth showed quite less variability during the four year study period amounting to 144 ± 10 and 137 ± 12 DD at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively. At both sites xylem growth was active when daily minimum, mean and maximum air temperatures were 5.3, 10.1 and 16.2 °C, respectively. Soil temperature thresholds and DD until onset of xylem growth differed significantly between sites indicating minor importance of root-zone temperature for onset of xylem growth. Although spring precipitation is known to limit radial growth in P. sylvestris exposed to dry inner Alpine climate, results of this study revealed that (i) a daily minimum air temperature threshold for onset of xylem growth in the range of 5-6 °C exists and (ii) air temperature sum rather than precipitation or soil temperature triggers start of xylem growth. Based on these findings we suggest that drought stress forces P. sylvestris to draw upon water reserves in the stem for enlargement of first tracheids after cambial resumption in spring.
PMCID: PMC3427020  PMID: 21593011
dry inner Alpine valley; heat-sum; phenology; Scots pine; wood formation; xylogenesis
4.  No evidence for depletion of carbohydrate pools in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) under drought stress 
The physiological mechanisms leading to Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) decline in the dry inner Alpine valleys are still unknown. Testing the carbon starvation hypothesis, we analysed the seasonal course of mobile carbohydrate pools (NSC) of Scots pine growing at a xeric and a dry-mesic site within an inner Alpine dry valley (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) during the year 2009, which was characterized by exceptional soil dryness. Although, soil moisture content dropped to c. 10% at both sites during the growing season, NSC concentrations were rising in all tissues (branch, stem, root) till end of July, except in needles where maxima were reached around bud break. NSC concentrations were not significantly different in the analysed tissues at the xeric and the dry-mesic site. At the dry-mesic site NSC concentrations in the above ground tree biomass were significantly higher during the period of radial growth. An accumulation of NSC in roots at the end of July indicates a change in carbon allocation after an early cessation in above ground growth, possibly due to elevated below ground carbon demand. In conclusion our results revealed that extensive soil dryness during the growing season did not lead to carbon depletion. However, even though C-reserves were not exhausted, a sequestration of carbohydrate pools during drought periods might lead to deficits in carbon supply that weaken tree vigour and drive tree mortality.
PMCID: PMC3427021  PMID: 21974742
non-structural carbohydrates; Scots pine; drought; dry inner Alpine valley; carbon starvation; tree mortality
5.  Temporal dynamic of wood formation in Pinus cembra along the alpine treeline ecotone and the effect of climate variables 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2009;23(3):623-635.
We determined the temporal dynamic of cambial activity and xylem development of stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) throughout the treeline ecotone. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring was carried out during the growing seasons 2006 and 2007 at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.), treeline (2110 m a.s.l.) and within the krummholz belt (2180 m a.s.l.) and the influence of climate variables on intra-annual wood formation was determined.
At the beginning of both growing seasons, highest numbers of cambial and enlarging cells were observed at the treeline. Soil temperatures at time of initiation of cambial activity were c. 1.5 °C higher at treeline (open canopy) compared to timberline (closed canopy), suggesting that a threshold root-zone temperature is involved in triggering onset of above ground stem growth.
The rate of xylem cell production determined in two weekly intervals during June through August 2006-2007 was significantly correlated with air temperature (temperature sums expressed as degree-days and mean daily maximum temperature) at the timberline only. Lack of significant relationships between tracheid production and temperature variables at the treeline and within the krummholz belt support past dendroclimatological studies that more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., wind exposure, frost desiccation, late frost) increasingly control tree growth above timberline.
Results of this study revealed that spatial and temporal (i.e. year-to-year) variability in timing and dynamic of wood formation of Pinus cembra is strongly influenced by local site factors within the treeline ecotone and the dynamics of seasonal temperature variation, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3078619  PMID: 21509148
Cambium; intra-annual growth; Pinus cembra; temperature; tracheid production
6.  Radial stem growth in response to microclimate and soil moisture in a drought-prone mixed coniferous forest at an inner Alpine site 
European journal of forest research  2014;133(3):467-479.
Dendroclimatological studies in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l.) revealed different growth response of co-occurring coniferous species to climate, which is assumed to be caused by a temporal shift in wood formation among species. The main focus of this study therefore was to monitor intra-annual dynamics of radial increment growth of mature deciduous and evergreen coniferous species (Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies) during two consecutive years with contrasting climatic conditions. Radial stem growth was continuously followed by band dendrometers and modelled using Gompertz functions to determine time of maximum growth. Histological analyses of tree ring formation allowed determination of temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell development. Daily fluctuations in stem radius and radial stem increments were extracted from dendrometer traces, and correlations with environmental variables were performed. While a shift in temporal dynamics of radial growth onset and cessation was detected among co-occurring species, intra-annual radial growth peaked synchronously in late May 2011 and early June 2012. Moist atmospheric conditions, i.e. high relative air humidity, low vapour pressure deficit and low air temperature during the main growing period, favoured radial stem increment of all species. Soil water content and soil temperature were not significantly related to radial growth. Although a temporal shift in onset and cessation of wood formation was detected among species, synchronous culmination of radial growth indicates homogenous exogenous and/or endogenous control. The close coupling of radial growth to atmospheric conditions points to the importance of stem water status for intra-annual growth of drought-prone conifers.
PMCID: PMC4035765  PMID: 24883053
Cambial activity; Climate–growth relationship; Conifers; Dendrometer; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth
7.  Temporal dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates and xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought 
Wood formation requires a continuous supply of carbohydrates for structural growth and metabolism. In the montane belt of the central Austrian Alps we monitored the temporal dynamics of xylem growth and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in stem sapwood of Pinus sylvestris L. during the growing season 2009, which was characterized by exceptional soil dryness within the study area. Soil water content dropped below 10 % at the time of maximum xylem growth end of May. Histological analyses have been used to describe cambial activity and xylem growth. Determination of NSC was performed using specific enzymatic assays revealing that total NSC ranged from 0.8 to 1.7 % dry matter throughout the year. Significant variations (P < 0.05) of the size of the NSC pool were observed during the growing season. Starch showed persistent abundance throughout the year reaching a maximum shortly before onset of late wood formation in mid-July. Seasonal dynamics of NSC and xylem growth suggest that (i) high sink activity occurred at start of the growing season in spring and during late wood formation in summer and (ii) there was no particular shortage in NSC, which caused P. sylvestris to draw upon stem reserves more heavily during drought in 2009.
PMCID: PMC3191854  PMID: 22003262
8.  Effects of climate variables on intra-annual stem radial increment in Pinus cembra (L.) along the alpine treeline ecotone 
Annals of forest science  2009;66(5):503.
Within the alpine treeline ecotone tree growth is increasingly restricted by extreme climate conditions. Although intra-annual stem growth recorded by dendrometers can be linked to climate, stem diameter increments in slow-growing subalpine trees are masked by changes in tree water status.We tested the hypothesis that intra-annual radial stem growth in Pinus cembra is influenced by different climate variables along the treeline ecotone in the Austrian Alps. Dendrometer traces were compared with dynamics of xylem cell development to date onset of cambial activity and radial stem growth in spring.Daily fluctuations in stem radius reflected changes in tree water status throughout the treeline ecotone. Extracted daily radial increments were significantly correlated with air temperature at the timberline and treeline only, where budburst, cambial activity and enlargement of first tracheids also occurred quite similarly. A close relationship was detected between radial increment and number of enlarging tracheids throughout the treeline ecotone.We conclude that (i) the relationship between climate and radial stem growth within the treeline ecotone is dependent on a close coupling to atmospheric climate conditions and (ii) initiation of cambial activity and radial growth in spring can be distinguished from stem re-hydration by histological analysis.
PMCID: PMC3059571  PMID: 21423861
dendrometer; Pinus cembra; radial increment; treeline ecotone; xylem formation
9.  Intra-annual dynamics of stem CO2 efflux in relation to cambial activity and xylem development in Pinus cembra 
Tree physiology  2009;29(5):641-649.
The relationship between stem CO2 efflux (ES), cambial activity and xylem production in Pinus cembra was determined at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) of the Central Austrian Alps, throughout one year. ES was measured continuously from June 2006 to August 2007 using an infrared gas-analysis system. Cambial activity and xylem production was determined by repeated microcore sampling of the developing tree ring and radial increment was monitored using automated point dendrometers. Aside of temperature, the number of living tracheids and cambial cells was predominantly responsible for ES: ES normalized to 10°C (ES10) was significantly correlated to number of living cells throughout the year (r2 = 0,574; p < 0,001). However, elevated ES and missing correlation between ES10 and xylem production was detected during cambial reactivation in April and during transition from active phase to rest, which occurred in August and lasted until early September. Results of this study indicate that (i) during seasonal variations in cambial activity non-linearity between ES and xylem production occurs and (ii) elevated metabolic activity during transition stages in the cambial activity-dormancy cycle influence the carbon budget of Pinus cembra. Daily radial stem increment was primarily influenced by the number of enlarging cells and was not correlated to ES.
PMCID: PMC3013296  PMID: 19203979
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
10.  Nine Years of Irrigation Cause Vegetation and Fine Root Shifts in a Water-Limited Pine Forest 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96321.
Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris L.) in the inner-Alpine dry valleys of Switzerland have suffered from increased mortality during the past decades, which has been caused by longer and more frequent dry periods. In addition, a proceeding replacement of Scots pines by pubescent oaks (Quercus pubescens Willd.) has been observed. In 2003, an irrigation experiment was performed to track changes by reducing drought pressure on the natural pine forest. After nine years of irrigation, we observed major adaptations in the vegetation and shifts in Scots pine fine root abundance and structure. Irrigation permitted new plant species to assemble and promote canopy closure with a subsequent loss of herb and moss coverage. Fine root dry weight increased under irrigation and fine roots had a tendency to elongate. Structural composition of fine roots remained unaffected by irrigation, expressing preserved proportions of cellulose, lignin and phenolic substances. A shift to a more negative δ13C signal in the fine root C indicates an increased photosynthetic activity in irrigated pine trees. Using radiocarbon (14C) measurement, a reduced mean age of the fine roots in irrigated plots was revealed. The reason for this is either an increase in newly produced fine roots, supported by the increase in fine root biomass, or a reduced lifespan of fine roots which corresponds to an enhanced turnover rate. Overall, the responses belowground to irrigation are less conspicuous than the more rapid adaptations aboveground. Lagged and conservative adaptations of tree roots with decadal lifespans are challenging to detect, hence demanding for long-term surveys. Investigations concerning fine root turnover rate and degradation processes under a changing climate are crucial for a complete understanding of C cycling.
PMCID: PMC4011741  PMID: 24802642
11.  Drought sensitivity of three co-occurring conifers within a dry inner Alpine environment 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2013;27(1):61-69.
We applied dendroclimatological techniques to determine long-term stationarity of climate-growth relationships and recent growth trends of three widespread coniferous tree species of the central Austrian Alps, which grow intermixed at dry-mesic sites within a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m asl). Time series of annual increments were developed from > 120 mature trees of Picea abies, Larix decidua and Pinus sylvestris. Calculation of response functions for the period 1911 – 2009 revealed significant differences among species in response to climate variables. While precipitation in May – June favoured radial growth of Picea abies and Larix decidua, Pinus sylvestris growth mainly depended on April – May precipitation. P. abies growth was most sensitive to May – June temperature (inverse relationship). Moving response function coefficients indicated increasing drought sensitivity of all species in recent decades, which is related to a decline in soil moisture availability due to increasing stand density and tree size and higher evapotranspiration rates in a warmer climate. While recent trend in basal area increment (BAI) of L. decidua distinctly declined implying high vulnerability to drought stress, moderately shade-tolerant P. abies showed steadily increasing BAI and quite constant BAI was maintained in drought adapted P. sylvestris, although at lowest level of all species. We conclude that synergistic effects of stand dynamics and climate warming increased drought sensitivity, which changed competitive strength of co-occurring conifers due to differences in inherent adaptive capacity.
PMCID: PMC3750198  PMID: 23976821
Basal area increment; Dendroclimatology; Inner Alpine valley; Radial growth; Moving response function; Tree-ring analysis
12.  Changes in the localization and levels of starch and lipids in cambium and phloem during cambial reactivation by artificial heating of main stems of Cryptomeria japonica trees 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(6):885-895.
Background and Aims
Cambial reactivation in trees occurs from late winter to early spring when photosynthesis is minimal or almost non-existent. Reserve materials might be important for wood formation in trees. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules in cambium and phloem were examined from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in locally heated stems of Cryptomeria japonica trees in winter.
Electric heating tape was wrapped on one side of the stem of Cryptomeria japonica trees at breast height in winter. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules were determined by image analysis of optical digital images obtained by confocal laser scanning microscopy.
Key Results
Localized heating induced earlier cambial reactivation and xylem differentiation in stems of Cryptomeria japonica, as compared with non-heated stems. There were clear changes in the respective localizations and levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) determined in terms of relative areas on images, from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems. In heated stems, the levels and number of starch granules fell from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation. There was a significant decrease in the relative area occupied by lipid droplets in the cambium from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems.
The results showed clearly that the levels and number of storage starch granules in cambium and phloem cells and levels of lipids (as droplets) in the cambium decreased from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems during the winter. The observations suggest that starch and lipid droplets might be needed as sources of energy for the initiation of cambial cell division and the differentiation of xylem in Cryptomeria japonica.
PMCID: PMC2990657  PMID: 21037242
Cambial reactivation; confocal laser scanning microscopy; Cryptomeria japonica; lipid; starch; xylem differentiation
13.  Direct and Indirect Effects of Climate on Demography and Early Growth of Pinus sylvestris at the Rear Edge: Changing Roles of Biotic and Abiotic Factors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59824.
Global change triggers shifts in forest composition, with warming and aridification being particularly threatening for the populations located at the rear edge of the species distributions. This is the case of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Mediterranean Basin where uncertainties in relation to its dynamics under these changing scenarios are still high. We analysed the relative effect of climate on the recruitment patterns of Scots pine and its interactions with local biotic and abiotic variables at different spatial scales. Number of seedlings and saplings was surveyed, and their annual shoot growth measured in 96 plots located across altitudinal gradients in three different regions in the Iberian Peninsula. We found a significant influence of climate on demography and performance of recruits, with a non-linear effect of temperature on the presence of juveniles, and a positive effect of precipitation on their survival. Abundance of juveniles of P. sylvestris that underwent their first summer drought was skewed towards higher altitudes than the altitudinal mean range of the conspecific adults and the optimum elevation for seedlings' emergence. At local level, light availability did not influence juveniles' density, but it enhanced their growth. Biotic interactions were found between juveniles and the herb cover (competition) and between the number of newly emerged seedlings and shrubs (facilitation). Results also highlighted the indirect effect that climate exerts over the local factors, modulating the interactions with the pre-existing vegetation that were more evident at more stressful sites. This multiscale approach improves our understanding of the dynamics of these marginal populations and some management criteria can be inferred to boost their conservation under the current global warming.
PMCID: PMC3608533  PMID: 23555794
14.  Changes in soil bacterial community triggered by drought-induced gap succession preceded changes in soil C stocks and quality 
Ecology and Evolution  2012;2(12):3016-3031.
The aim of this study was to understand how drought-induced tree mortality and subsequent secondary succession would affect soil bacterial taxonomic composition as well as soil organic matter (SOM) quantity and quality in a mixed Mediterranean forest where the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) population, affected by climatic drought-induced die-off, is being replaced by Holm-oaks (HO; Quercus ilex). We apply a high throughput DNA pyrosequencing technique and 13C solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (CP-MAS 13C NMR) to soils within areas of influence (defined as an surface with 2-m radius around the trunk) of different trees: healthy and affected (defoliated) pines, pines that died a decade ago and healthy HOs. Soil respiration was also measured in the same spots during a spring campaign using a static close-chamber method (soda lime). A decade after death, and before aerial colonization by the more competitive HOs have even taken place, we could not find changes in soil C pools (quantity and/or quality) associated with tree mortality and secondary succession. Unlike C pools, bacterial diversity and community structure were strongly determined by tree mortality. Convergence between the most abundant taxa of soil bacterial communities under dead pines and colonizer trees (HOs) further suggests that physical gap colonization was occurring below-ground before above-ground colonization was taken place. Significantly higher soil respiration rates under dead trees, together with higher bacterial diversity and anomalously high representation of bacteria commonly associated with copiotrophic environments (r-strategic bacteria) further gives indications of how drought-induced tree mortality and secondary succession were influencing the structure of microbial communities and the metabolic activity of soils.
PMCID: PMC3538997  PMID: 23301169
Climate change; drought; ecosystem functioning; forest dieback; gap colonization; microbial diversity; nutrient cycling; pyrosequencing; tree mortality
15.  Long-term changes in tree-ring – climate relationships at Mt. Patscherkofel (Tyrol, Austria) since the mid 1980s 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2008;22(1):31-40.
Although growth limitation of trees at Alpine and high-latitude timberlines by prevailing summer temperature is well established, loss of thermal response of radial tree growth during last decades has repeatedly been addressed. We examined long-term variability of climate-growth relationships in ring width chronologies of Stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) by means of moving response functions (MRF). The study area is situated in the timberline ecotone (c. 2000 – 2200 m a.s.l.) on Mt. Patscherkofel (Tyrol, Austria). Five site chronologies were developed within the ecotone with constant sample depth (≥ 19 trees) throughout most of the time period analysed. MRF calculated for the period 1866-1999 and 1901-1999 for c. 200 and c. 100 yr old stands, respectively, revealed that mean July temperature is the major and long-term stable driving force of Pinus cembra radial growth within the timberline ecotone. However, since the mid 1980s, radial growth in timberline and tree line chronologies strikingly diverges from the July temperature trend. This is probably a result of extreme climate events (e.g. low winter precipitation, late frost) and/or increasing drought stress on cambial activity. The latter assumption is supported by a < 10 % increase in annual increments of c. 50 yr old trees at the timberline and at the tree line in 2003 compared to 2002, when extraordinary hot and dry conditions prevailed during summer. Furthermore, especially during the second half of the 20th century, influence of climate variables on radial growth show abrupt fluctuations, which might also be a consequence of climate warming on tree physiology.
PMCID: PMC3083837  PMID: 21532976
Climate warming; moving response function; Pinus cembra; temperature sensitivity; tree ring
16.  Cambial Growth Season of Brevi-Deciduous Brachystegia spiciformis Trees from South Central Africa Restricted to Less than Four Months 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47364.
We investigate cambial growth periodicity in Brachystegia spiciformis, a dominant tree species in the seasonally dry miombo woodland of southern Africa. To better understand how the brevi-deciduous (experiencing a short, drought-induced leaf fall period) leaf phenology of this species can be linked to a distinct period of cambial activity, we applied a bi-weekly pinning to six trees in western Zambia over the course of one year. Our results show that the onset and end of cambial growth was synchronous between trees, but was not concurrent with the onset and end of the rainy season. The relatively short (three to four months maximum) cambial growth season corresponded to the core of the rainy season, when 75% of the annual precipitation fell, and to the period when the trees were at full photosynthetic capacity. Tree-ring studies of this species have found a significant relationship between annual tree growth and precipitation, but we did not observe such a correlation at intra-annual resolution in this study. Furthermore, a substantial rainfall event occurring after the end of the cambial growth season did not induce xylem initiation or false ring formation. Low sample replication should be taken into account when interpreting the results of this study, but our findings can be used to refine the carbon allocation component of process-based terrestrial ecosystem models and can thus contribute to a more detailed estimation of the role of the miombo woodland in the terrestrial carbon cycle. Furthermore, we provide a physiological foundation for the use of Brachystegia spiciformis tree-ring records in paleoclimate research.
PMCID: PMC3468463  PMID: 23071794
17.  Cambial Activity and Intra-annual Xylem Formation in Roots and Stems of Abies balsamea and Picea mariana 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(5):667-674.
Background and Aims
Studies on xylogenesis focus essentially on the stem, whereas there is basically no information about the intra-annual growth of other parts of the tree. As roots strongly influence carbon allocation and tree development, knowledge of the dynamics of xylem production and maturation in roots at a short time scale is required for a better understanding of the phenomenon of tree growth. This study compared cambial activity and xylem formation in stem and roots in two conifers of the boreal forest in Canada.
Wood microcores were collected weekly in stem and roots of ten Abies balsamea and ten Picea mariana during the 2004–2006 growing seasons. Cross-sections were cut using a rotary microtome, stained with cresyl violet acetate and observed under visible and polarized light. The number of cells in the cambial zone and in differentiation, plus the number of mature cells, was counted along the developing xylem.
Key Results
Xylem formation lasted from the end of May to the end of September, with no difference between stem and roots in 2004–2005. On the contrary, in 2006 a 1-week earlier beginning of cell differentiation was observed in the stem, with cell wall thickening and lignification in roots ending up to 22 d later than in the stem. Cell production in the stem was concentrated early in the season, in June, while most cell divisions in roots occurred 1 month later.
The intra-annual dynamics of growth observed in stem and roots could be related to the different amount of cells produced by the cambium and the patterns of air and soil temperature occurring in spring.
PMCID: PMC2712372  PMID: 18708643
Abies balsamea; boreal forest; cambium; cell differentiation; cell wall thickening; lignification; Picea mariana; root; stem; xylem
18.  Effect of Local Heating and Cooling on Cambial Activity and Cell Differentiation in the Stem of Norway Spruce (Picea abies) 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(6):943-951.
• Background and Aims The effect of heating and cooling on cambial activity and cell differentiation in part of the stem of Norway spruce (Picea abies) was investigated.
• Methods A heating experiment (23–25 °C) was carried out in spring, before normal reactivation of the cambium, and cooling (9–11 °C) at the height of cambial activity in summer. The cambium, xylem and phloem were investigated by means of light- and transmission electron microscopy and UV-microspectrophotometry in tissues sampled from living trees.
• Key Results Localized heating for 10 d initiated cambial divisions on the phloem side and after 20 d also on the xylem side. In a control tree, regular cambial activity started after 30 d. In the heat-treated sample, up to 15 earlywood cells undergoing differentiation were found to be present. The response of the cambium to stem cooling was less pronounced, and no anatomical differences were detected between the control and cool-treated samples after 10 or 20 d. After 30 d, latewood started to form in the sample exposed to cooling. In addition, almost no radially expanding tracheids were observed and the cambium consisted of only five layers of cells. Low temperatures reduced cambial activity, as indicated by the decreased proportion of latewood. On the phloem side, no alterations were observed among cool-treated and non-treated samples.
• Conclusions Heating and cooling can influence cambial activity and cell differentiation in Norway spruce. However, at the ultrastructural and topochemical levels, no changes were observed in the pattern of secondary cell-wall formation and lignification or in lignin structure, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2803384  PMID: 16613904
Norway spruce; Picea abies; cambium; xylem; phloem; cell differentiation; heating; cooling; light microscopy; transmission electron microscopy; UV-microspectrophotometry
19.  Tree rings of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) as a source of information about past climate in northern Poland 
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is a very common tree in Polish forests, and therefore was widely used as timber. A relatively large amount of available wood allowed a long-term chronology to be built up and used as a source of information about past climate. The analysis of reconstructed indexed values of mean temperature in 51-year moving intervals allowed the recognition of the coldest periods in the years 1207–1346, 1383–1425, 1455–1482, 1533–1574, 1627–1646, and 1694–1785. The analysis of extreme wide and narrow rings forms a complementary method of examining climatic data within tree rings. The tree ring widths, early wood and late wood widths of 16 samples were assessed during the period 1581–1676. The most apparent effect is noted in the dry summer of 1616. According to previous research and our findings, temperature from February to March seems to be one of the most stable climatic factors which influenced pine growth in Poland. Correlation coefficients in the calibration and validation procedure gave promising results for temperature reconstruction from the pine chronology.
PMCID: PMC3245383  PMID: 21174127
Dendrochronology; Dendroclimatology; Climate reconstruction; Scots pine
20.  A Functional and Structural Mongolian Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) Model Integrating Architecture, Biomass and Effects of Precipitation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43531.
Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal tree species in the network of Three-North Shelterbelt for windbreak and sand stabilisation in China. The functions of shelterbelts are highly correlated with the architecture and eco-physiological processes of individual tree. Thus, model-assisted analysis of canopy architecture and function dynamic in Mongolian Scots pine is of value for better understanding its role and behaviour within shelterbelt ecosystems in these arid and semiarid regions. We present here a single-tree functional and structural model, derived from the GreenLab model, which is adapted for young Mongolian Scots pines by incorporation of plant biomass production, allocation, allometric rules and soil water dynamics. The model is calibrated and validated based on experimental measurements taken on Mongolian Scots pines in 2007 and 2006 under local meteorological conditions. Measurements include plant biomass, topology and geometry, as well as soil attributes and standard meteorological data. After calibration, the model allows reconstruction of three-dimensional (3D) canopy architecture and biomass dynamics for trees from one- to six-year-old at the same site using meteorological data for the six years from 2001 to 2006. Sensitivity analysis indicates that rainfall variation has more influence on biomass increment than on architecture, and the internode and needle compartments and the aboveground biomass respond linearly to increases in precipitation. Sensitivity analysis also shows that the balance between internode and needle growth varies only slightly within the range of precipitations considered here. The model is expected to be used to investigate the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in other regions with different soils and climates.
PMCID: PMC3425476  PMID: 22927982
21.  Fluctuations of cambial activity in relation to precipitation result in annual rings and intra-annual growth zones of xylem and phloem in teak (Tectona grandis) in Ivory Coast 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(4):861-873.
Background and Aims
Teak forms xylem rings that potentially carry records of carbon sequestration and climate in the tropics. These records are only useful when the structural variations of tree rings and their periodicity of formation are known.
The seasonality of ring formation in mature teak trees was examined via correlative analysis of cambial activity, xylem and phloem formation, and climate throughout 1·5 years. Xylem and phloem differentiation were visualized by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
A 3 month dry season resulted in semi-deciduousness, cambial dormancy and formation of annual xylem growth rings (AXGRs). Intra-annual xylem and phloem growth was characterized by variable intensity. Morphometric features of cambium such as cambium thickness and differentiating xylem layers were positively correlated. Cambium thickness was strongly correlated with monthly rainfall (R2 = 0·7535). In all sampled trees, xylem growth zones (XGZs) were formed within the AXGRs during the seasonal development of new foliage. When trees achieved full leaf, the xylem in the new XGZs appeared completely differentiated and functional for water transport. Two phloem growth rings were formed in one growing season.
The seasonal formation pattern and microstructure of teak xylem suggest that AXGRs and XGZs can be used as proxies for analyses of the tree history and climate at annual and intra-annual resolution.
PMCID: PMC3423803  PMID: 22805529
Growth rings; teak; Tectona grandis; vascular cambium; xylem and phloem formation
22.  Induction of Cambial Reactivation by Localized Heating in a Deciduous Hardwood Hybrid Poplar (Populus sieboldii × P. grandidentata) 
Annals of Botany  2007;100(3):439-447.
Background and Aims
The timing of cambial reactivation plays an important role in the control of both the quantity and the quality of wood. The effect of localized heating on cambial reactivation in the main stem of a deciduous hardwood hybrid poplar (Populus sieboldii × P. grandidentata) was investigated.
Electric heating tape (20–22 °C) was wrapped at one side of the main stem of cloned hybrid poplar trees at breast height in winter. Small blocks were collected from both heated and non-heated control portions of the stem for sequential observations of cambial activity and for studies of the localization of storage starch around the cambium from dormancy to reactivation by light microscopy.
Key Results
Cell division in phloem began earlier than cambial reactivation in locally heated portions of stems. Moreover, the cambial reactivation induced by localized heating occurred earlier than natural cambial reactivation. In heated stems, well-developed secondary xylem was produced that had almost the same structure as the natural xylem. When cambial reactivation was induced by heating, the buds of trees had not yet burst, indicating that there was no close temporal relationship between bud burst and cambial reactivation. In heated stems, the amount of storage starch decreased near the cambium upon reactivation of the cambium. After cambial reactivation, storage starch disappeared completely. Storage starch appeared again, near the cambium, during xylem differentiation in heated stems.
The results suggest that, in deciduous diffuse-porous hardwood poplar growing in a temperate zone, the temperature in the stem is a limiting factor for reactivation of phloem and cambium. An increase in temperature might induce the conversion of storage starch to sucrose for the activation of cambial cell division and secondary xylem. Localized heating in poplar stems provides a useful experimental system for studies of cambial biology.
PMCID: PMC2533603  PMID: 17621596
Populus sieboldii × Populus grandidentata; localized heating, cambial reactivation; model system; storage starch; xylem differentiation
23.  Genetic Variation of Drought Tolerance in Pinus pinaster at Three Hierarchical Levels: A Comparison of Induced Osmotic Stress and Field Testing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79094.
Understanding the survival capacity of forest trees to periods of severe water stress could improve knowledge of the adaptive potential of different species under future climatic scenarios. In long lived organisms, like forest trees, the combination of induced osmotic stress treatments and field testing can elucidate the role of drought tolerance during the early stages of establishment, the most critical in the life of the species. We performed a Polyethylene glycol-osmotic induced stress experiment and evaluated two common garden experiments (xeric and mesic sites) to test for survival and growth of a wide range clonal collection of Maritime pine. This study demonstrates the importance of additive vs non additive effects for drought tolerance traits in Pinus pinaster, and shows differences in parameters determining the adaptive trajectories of populations and family and clones within populations. The results show that osmotic adjustment plays an important role in population variation, while biomass allocation and hydric content greatly influence survival at population level. Survival in the induced osmotic stress experiment presented significant correlations with survival in the xeric site, and height growth at the mesic site, at population level, indicating constraints of adaptation for those traits, while at the within population level no significant correlation existed. These results demonstrate that population differentiation and within population genetic variation for drought tolerance follow different patterns.
PMCID: PMC3815124  PMID: 24223885
24.  Fluorescence measurements show stronger cold inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions in Scots pine compared to Norway spruce as well as during spring compared to autumn 
We studied the photosynthetic activity of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst) in relation to air temperature changes from March 2013 to February 2014. We measured the chlorophyll fluorescence of approximately 50 trees of each species growing in southern Finland. Fluorescence was measured 1–3 times per week. We began by measuring shoots present in late winter (i.e., March 2013) before including new shoots once they started to elongate in spring. By July, when the spring shoots had achieved similar fluorescence levels to the older ones, we proceeded to measure the new shoots only. We analyzed the data by fitting a sigmoidal model containing four parameters to link sliding averages of temperature and fluorescence. A parameter defining the temperature range over which predicted fluorescence increased most rapidly was the most informative with in describing temperature dependence of fluorescence. The model generated similar fluorescence patterns for both species, but differences were observed for critical temperature and needle age. Down regulation of the light reaction was stronger in spring than in autumn. Pine showed more conservative control of the photosynthetic light reactions, which were activated later in spring and more readily attenuated in autumn. Under the assumption of a close correlation of fluorescence and photosynthesis, spruce should therefore benefit more than pine from the increased photosynthetic potential during warmer springs, but be more likely to suffer frost damage with a sudden cooling following a warm period. The winter of 2013–2014 was unusually mild and similar to future conditions predicted by global climate models. During the mild winter, the activity of photosynthetic light reactions of both conifers, especially spruce, remained high. Because light levels during winter are too low for photosynthesis, this activity may translate to a net carbon loss due to respiration.
PMCID: PMC4055857  PMID: 24982664
Scots pine; Norway spruce; photosynthesis; phenology; cold inhibition; climate change; frost tolerance
25.  Adaptation strategies and referencing trial of Scots and black pine populations subjected to heavy metal pollution 
The impact of industrial heavy metal pollution on Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and black pine (Pinus nigra Arn.) populations was investigated. Sampled pine stands, which were located in Upper Silesia (southern Poland) in an area strongly polluted by heavy metals, consisted of resistant and sensitive trees. To evaluate the adaptation process, genetic structure and diversity was tested using isozyme analysis. Higher levels of Zn, Pb, Cd and Cu were detected in needles of sensitive trees compared with resistant ones. With respect to morphology, Scots pines were more distinctly impaired than black pines. Although black pines had lower heavy metal concentrations, levels in 1-year-old needles, other than Cu, significantly exceeded “reference plant” values (Markert 1994). In both species, resistant trees demonstrated a lower degree of genetic variation than metal-sensitive trees with respect to some enzyme loci (SHDH A, PGI, PGM, MDH C and DIA). This observation was corroborated in sensitive trees by the smaller number of identified alleles and alleles per locus, absence of private alleles and significant excess of homozygotes in relation to expected Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium values. Assuming that only resistant trees of both species survive under conditions of prolonged soil contamination, the observed genetic structure implies that remaining populations will be depleted of some alleles of unknown adaptive value to future selection pressures. Genetic changes induced by heavy metals suggest an important role for specific enzymes—FEST, SHDH A and B, GOT B and PGI—in the adaptation process. Our results may serve as a basis for selection and propagation of individuals appropriate for re-cultivation of areas chemically degraded by industrial activity.
PMCID: PMC3906555  PMID: 24043503
Genetic variation; Heavy metal; Enzymes; Pinus nigra; Pinus sylvestris; Reference plant

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