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.
dendrometer; Pinus cembra; radial increment; treeline ecotone; xylem formation
We determined the temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell differentiation of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) within a dry inner Alpine valley (750 m asl, Tyrol, Austria), where radial growth is strongly limited by drought in spring. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring of mature trees was carried out during 2 contrasting years at two study plots that differ in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site).
In 2007, when air temperature at the beginning of the growing season in April exceeded the long-term mean by 6.4 °C, cambial cell division started in early April at both study plots. A delayed onset of cambial activity of c. 2 wk was found in 2008, when average climate conditions prevailed in spring, indicating that resumption of cambial cell division after winter dormancy is temperature-controlled. Cambial cell division consistently ended about the end of June/early July in both study years. Radial enlargement of tracheids started almost 3 wk earlier in 2007 compared with 2008 at both study plots. At the xeric site, the maximum rate of tracheid production in 2007 and 2008 was reached in early and mid-May, respectively, and c. 2 wk later, at the dry-mesic site. Since in both study years, more favorable growing conditions (i.e., an increase in soil water content) were recorded during summer, we suggest a strong sink competition for carbohydrates to mycorrhizal root and shoot growth. Wood formation stopped c. 4 wk earlier at the xeric compared with the dry-mesic site in both years, indicating a strong influence of drought stress on cell differentiation. This is supported by radial widths of earlywood cells, which were found to be significantly narrower at the xeric than at the dry-mesic site (P < 0.05).
Repeated cellular analyses during the two growing seasons revealed that, although spatial variability in the dynamics and duration of cell differentiation processes in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought is strongly influenced by water availability, the onset of cambial activity and cell differentiation is controlled by temperature.
Cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; tracheid production; xylogenesis
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.
Climate warming; moving response function; Pinus cembra; temperature sensitivity; tree ring
To test whether the altitudinal limit of tree growth is determined by carbons shortage or by a limitation in growth we investigated non structural carbohydrates and their components starch and total soluble sugars in Pinus cembra trees along an elevational gradient in the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps. NSC contents in needles, branches, stems, and coarse roots were measured throughout an entire growing season. At the tissue level NSC contents were not significantly more abundant in treeline trees as compared to trees at lower elevations. Along our 425 m elevational transect from the closed forest to the treeline we failed to find a stable elevational trend in the total NSC pool of entire trees and observed within season increases in the tree’s NSC pool that can be attributed to an altitudinal increase in leaf mass as needles contained the largest NSC fraction of the whole tree NSC pool. Furthermore, whole tree NSC contents were positively correlated with net photosynthetic capacity. Although our observed NSC characteristics do not support the hypothesis that tree life at their upper elevational limit is determined by an insufficient carbon balance we found no consistent confirmation for the sink limitation hypothesis.
Non structural carbohydrates; seasonal variation; elevational gradient; timberline ecotone; treeline formation; treelife limitation
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.
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
The Russian treeline is a dynamic ecotone typified by steep gradients in summer temperature and regionally variable gradients in albedo and heat flux. The location of the treeline is largely controlled by summer temperatures and growing season length. Temperatures have responded strongly to twentieth-century global warming and will display a magnified response to future warming. Dendroecological studies indicate enhanced conifer recruitment during the twentieth century. However, conifers have not yet recolonized many areas where trees were present during the Medieval Warm period (ca AD 800–1300) or the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM; ca 10 000–3000 years ago). Reconstruction of tree distributions during the HTM suggests that the future position of the treeline due to global warming may approximate its former Holocene maximum position. An increased dominance of evergreen tree species in the northern Siberian forests may be an important difference between past and future conditions. Based on the slow rates of treeline expansion observed during the twentieth century, the presence of steep climatic gradients associated with the current Arctic coastline and the prevalence of organic soils, it is possible that rates of treeline expansion will be regionally variable and transient forest communities with species abundances different from today's may develop.
Arctic; Eurasia; Holocene; boreal forest; treeline; climate change
This review considers potential effects of atmospheric change and climate warming within the timberline ecotone of the Central European Alps. After focusing on the impacts of ozone (O3) and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, effects of climate warming on the carbon and water balance of timberline trees and forests will be outlined towards conclusions about changes in tree growth and treeline dynamics.Presently, ambient ground-level O3 concentrations do not exert crucial stress on adult conifers at the timberline of the Central European Alps. In response to elevated atmospheric CO2
Larix decidua showed growth increase, whereas no such response was found in Pinus uncinata. Overall climate warming appears as the factor responsible for the observed growth stimulation of timberline trees.Increased seedling re-establishment in the Central European Alps however, resulted from invasion into potential habitats rather than upward migration due to climate change, although seedlings will only reach tree size upon successful coupling with the atmosphere and thus loosing the beneficial microclimate of low stature vegetation.In conclusion, future climate extremes are more likely than the gradual temperature increase to control treeline dynamics in the Central European Alps.
Alpine timberline; treeline; global warming; CO2; ozone; water balance; carbon gain
Global warming and the stronger regional temperature trends recently recorded over the European Alps have triggered several biological and physical dynamics in high-altitude environments. We defined the present treeline altitude in three valleys of a region in the western Italian Alps and reconstructed the past treeline position for the last three centuries in a nearly undisturbed site by means of a dendrochronological approach. We found that the treeline altitude in this region is mainly controlled by human impacts and geomorphological factors. The reconstruction of the altitudinal dynamics at the study site reveals that the treeline shifted upwards of 115 m over the period 1901–2000, reaching the altitude of 2505 m in 2000 and 2515 m in 2008. The recent treeline shift and the acceleration of tree colonization rates in the alpine belt can be mainly ascribed to the climatic input. However, we point out the increasing role of geomorphological factors in controlling the future treeline position and colonization patterns in high mountains.
Climate change; Treeline; Geomorphology; Tree rings; Larix decidua; European Alps
Temperature is suggested to determine the upper limit of tree life. Therefore, future climate warming may be of importance for tree distribution within the European Alps, where low temperatures limit carbon metabolism.
We focused on the effects of air and soil temperature on net photosynthesis (Pn) of Pinus cembra an evergreen climax species of the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps. Light response and temperature response curves were estimated along an altitudinal gradient ranging from the forest limit up to the krummholz limit in both summer and fall.
In general, Pn was significantly lower in fall as compared to summer. Nevertheless, independent from season mean Pn values tended to increase with elevation and were positively correlated with root zone temperatures. The specific leaf area by contrast declined with increasing elevation. Furthermore, the temperature optimum of net photosynthesis declined with increasing elevation and was positively correlated with the mean maximum air temperature of the 10 days prior the date of measurement.
Thus, our findings appear to reflect a long-term adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus of Pinus cembra to the general temperature conditions with respect to elevation combined with a short term acclimation to the prevailing temperature regime.
net photosynthesis; temperature; cembran pine; timberline ecotone; global warming
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.
The relationship between wood growth and environmental variability at the tropical treeline of North America was investigated using automated, solar-powered sensors (a meteorological station and two dendrometer clusters) installed on Nevado de Colima, Mexico (19° 35′ N, 103° 37′ W, 3,760 m a.s.l.). Pure stands of Pinus hartwegii Lindl. (Mexican mountain pine) were targeted because of their suitability for tree-ring analysis in low-latitude, high-elevation, North American Monsoon environments. Stem size and hydroclimatic variables recorded at half-hour intervals were summarized on a daily timescale. Power outages, insect outbreaks, and sensor failures limited the analysis to non-consecutive months during 2001–2003 at one dendrometer site, and during 2002–2005 at the other. Combined data from the two sites showed that maximum radial growth rates occur in late spring (May), as soil temperature increases, and incoming short-wave radiation reaches its highest values. Early season (April–May) radial increment correlated directly with temperature, especially of the soil, and with solar radiation. Stem expansion at the start of the summer monsoon (June–July) was mostly influenced by moisture, and revealed a drought signal, while late season relationships were more varied.
point dendrometers; radial growth; tree rings; dendroecology; high elevation ecosystems; Mexican mountain pine; Pinus hartwegii Lindl.; Volcán de Fuego
Many studies have tried to explain the physiological mechanisms of the alpine treeline phenomenon, but the debate on the alpine treeline formation remains controversial due to opposite results from different studies. The present study explored the carbon-physiology of an alpine shrub species (Quercus aquifolioides) grown at its upper elevational limit compared to lower elevations, to test whether the elevational limit of alpine shrubs (<3 m in height) are determined by carbon limitation or growth limitation. We studied the seasonal variations in non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) and its pool size in Q. aquifolioides grown at 3000 m, 3500 m, and at its elevational limit of 3950 m above sea level (a.s.l.) on Zheduo Mt., SW China. The tissue NSC concentrations along the elevational gradient varied significantly with season, reflecting the season-dependent carbon balance. The NSC levels in tissues were lowest at the beginning of the growing season, indicating that plants used the winter reserve storage for re-growth in the early spring. During the growing season, plants grown at the elevational limit did not show lower NSC concentrations compared to plants at lower elevations, but during the winter season, storage tissues, especially roots, had significantly lower NSC concentrations in plants at the elevational limit compared to lower elevations. The present results suggest the significance of winter reserve in storage tissues, which may determine the winter survival and early-spring re-growth of Q. aquifolioides shrubs at high elevation, leading to the formation of the uppermost distribution limit. This result is consistent with a recent hypothesis for the alpine treeline formation.
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.
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
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.
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.
Abies balsamea; boreal forest; cambium; cell differentiation; cell wall thickening; lignification; Picea mariana; root; stem; xylem
Tree-ring width, wood density, anatomical structure and 13C/12C ratios expressed as δ13C-values of whole wood of Picea abies were investigated for trees growing in closed canopy forest stands. Samples were collected from the alpine Renon site in North Italy, the lowland Hainich site in Central Germany and the boreal Flakaliden site in North Sweden. In addition, Pinus cembra was studied at the alpine site and Pinus sylvestris at the boreal site. The density profiles of tree rings were measured using the DENDRO-2003 densitometer, δ13C was measured using high-resolution laser-ablation-combustion-gas chromatography-infra-red mass spectrometry and anatomical characteristics of tree rings (tracheid diameter, cell-wall thickness, cell-wall area and cell-lumen area) were measured using an image analyzer. Based on long-term statistics, climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit, explained <20% of the variation in tree-ring width and wood density over consecutive years, while 29–58% of the variation in tree-ring width were explained by autocorrelation between tree rings. An intensive study of tree rings between 1999 and 2003 revealed that tree ring width and δ13C-values of whole wood were significantly correlated with length of the growing season, net radiation and vapor pressure deficit. The δ13C-values were not correlated with precipitation or temperature. A highly significant correlation was also found between δ13C of the early wood of one year and the late wood of the previous year, indicating a carry-over effect of the growing conditions of the previous season on current wood production. This latter effect may explain the high autocorrelation of long-term tree-ring statistics. The pattern, however, was complex, showing stepwise decreases as well as stepwise increases in the δ13C between late wood and early wood. The results are interpreted in the context of the biochemistry of wood formation and its linkage to storage products. It is clear that the relations between δ13C and tree-ring width and climate are multi-factorial in seasonal climates.
Dendrochonology; Carbohydrate storage; Picea abies; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Tracheid lumen area; Wood density
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.
dry inner Alpine valley; heat-sum; phenology; Scots pine; wood formation; xylogenesis
Few well-dated, quantitative Holocene temperature reconstructions exist from high-altitude sites in the Central Eastern Alps. Here, we present a chironomid-based quantitative reconstruction of mean July air temperatures (TJuly) throughout the Holocene for a remote high-mountain lake, Schwarzsee ob Sölden, situated above the treeline at 2796 m a.s.l. in the Austrian Alps. Applying a chironomid-temperature inference model developed from lakes of the Alpine region to a high-resolution chironomid record from the lake provides evidence for early Holocene (ca 10000–8600 cal yr BP) TJuly of up to 8.5 °C, i.e. >4 °C above the modern (1977–2006) mean July temperature. The reconstruction reveals the so-called ‘8.2-ka cold event’ centered at ca 8250–8000 cal yr BP with temperatures ca 3 °C below the early-Holocene thermal maximum. Rather warm (ca 6 °C) and productive conditions prevailed during ca 7900–4500 cal yr BP. The chironomid record suggests a climate transition between ca 5200 and 4500 cal yr BP to cooler TJuly. A distinct cooling trend is evident from ca 4500 until ca 2500 cal yr BP. Thereafter, the study site experienced its coldest conditions (around 4 °C or less) throughout the rest of the Holocene, with the exception of the warming trend during the late 20th century. Beside other factors, the Northern Hemisphere summer insolation seems to be the major driving force for the long-term trends in TJuly at high altitudes in the Eastern Alps. Due to the extreme location of the lake and the limited temperature range represented by the applied calibration data set, the chironomid-based temperature reconstruction fails to track phases of the late-Holocene climatic history with TJuly cooler than 4 °C. Further chironomid-based palaeoclimate model and down-core studies are required to address this problem, provide more realistic TJuly estimates from undisturbed high-altitude lakes in the Alps, and extract a reliable regional temperature signal.
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.
non-structural carbohydrates; Scots pine; drought; dry inner Alpine valley; carbon starvation; tree mortality
Background and Aims
The mobile carbon supply to different compartments of a tree is affected by climate, but its impact on cell-wall chemistry and mechanics remains unknown. To understand better the variability in root growth and biomechanics in mountain forests subjected to substrate mass movement, we investigated root chemical and mechanical properties of mature Abies georgei var. smithii (Smith fir) growing at different elevations on the Tibet–Qinghai Plateau.
Thin and fine roots (0·1–4·0 mm in diameter) were sampled at three different elevations (3480, 3900 and 4330 m, the last corresponding to the treeline). Tensile resistance of roots of different diameter classes was measured along with holocellulose and non-structural carbon (NSC) content.
The mean force necessary to break roots in tension decreased significantly with increasing altitude and was attributed to a decrease in holocellulose content. Holocellulose was significantly lower in roots at the treeline (29·5 ± 1·3 %) compared with those at 3480 m (39·1 ± 1·0 %). Roots also differed significantly in NSC, with 35·6 ± 4·1 mg g−1 dry mass of mean total soluble sugars in roots at 3480 m and 18·8 ± 2·1 mg g−1 dry mass in roots at the treeline.
Root mechanical resistance, holocellulose and NSC content all decreased with increasing altitude. Holocellulose is made up principally of cellulose, the biosynthesis of which depends largely on NSC supply. Plants synthesize cellulose when conditions are optimal and NSC is not limiting. Thus, cellulose synthesis in the thin and fine roots measured in our study is probably not a priority in mature trees growing at very high altitudes, where climatic factors will be limiting for growth. Root NSC stocks at the treeline may be depleted through over-demand for carbon supply due to increased fine root production or winter root growth.
Abies georgei; biomechanics; tensile resistance; cellulose content; non-structural carbon; root strength; Tibet–Qinghai; slope stability
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.
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.
Cambial reactivation; confocal laser scanning microscopy; Cryptomeria japonica; lipid; starch; xylem differentiation
Background and Aims
Along snowmelt gradients, the canopies of temperate alpine meadows differ strongly in their structural and biochemical properties. Here, a study is made of the effects of these canopy dissimilarities combined with the snow-induced changes in length of growing season on seasonal gross primary production (GPP).
Leaf area index (LAI) and community-aggregated values of leaf angle and leaf nitrogen content were estimated for seven alpine plant canopies distributed along a marked snowmelt gradient, and these were used as input variables in a sun–shade canopy bulk-photosynthesis model. The model was validated for plant communities of early and late snowmelt sites by measuring the instantaneous CO2 fluxes with a canopy closed-chamber technique. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to estimate the relative impact of canopy properties and environmental factors on the daily and seasonal GPP.
Carbon uptake was primarily related to the LAI and total canopy nitrogen content, but not to the leaf angle. For a given level of photosynthetically active radiation, CO2 assimilation was higher under overcast conditions. Sensitivity analysis revealed that increase of the length of the growing season had a higher effect on the seasonal GPP than a similar increase of any other factor. It was also found that the observed greater nitrogen content and larger LAI of canopies in late-snowmelt sites largely compensated for the negative impact of the reduced growing season.
The results emphasize the primary importance of snow-induced changes in length of growing season on carbon uptake in alpine temperate meadows. It was also demonstrated how using leaf-trait values of the dominants is a useful approach for modelling ecosystem carbon-cycle-related processes, particularly when continuous measurements of CO2 fluxes are technically difficult. The study thus represents an important step in addressing the challenge of using a plant functional-trait approach for biogeochemical modelling.
Alpine meadows; gross primary production; plant functional traits; snowmelt gradient; sun–shade model
Background and Aims
Our knowledge about the influences of environmental factors on tree growth is principally based on the study of dominant trees. However, tree social status may influence intra-annual dynamics of growth, leading to differential responses to environmental conditions. The aim was to determine whether within-stand differences in stem diameters of trees belonging to different crown classes resulted from variations in the length of the growing period or in the rate of cell production.
Cambial activity was monitored weekly in 2006 for three crown classes in a 40-year-old silver-fir (Abies alba) plantation near Nancy (France). Timings, duration and rate of tracheid production were assessed from anatomical observations of the developing xylem.
Cambial activity started earlier, stopped later and lasted longer in dominant trees than in intermediate and suppressed ones. The onset of cambial activity was estimated to have taken 3 weeks to spread to 90 % of the trees in the stand, while the cessation needed 6 weeks. Cambial activity was more intense in dominant trees than in intermediate and suppressed ones. It was estimated that about 75 % of tree-ring width variability was attributable to the rate of cell production and only 25 % to its duration. Moreover, growth duration was correlated to tree height, while growth rate was better correlated to crown area.
These results show that, in a closed conifer forest, stem diameter variations resulted principally from differences in the rate of xylem cell production rather than in its duration. Tree size interacts with environmental factors to control the timings, duration and rate of cambial activity through functional processes involving source–sink relationships principally, but also hormonal controls.
Cambial activity; forest-stand structure; silver fir (Abies alba); tree-ring formation; tree-to-tree competition; social status; wood anatomy; xylem cell differentiation
Background and Aims
During their lifetime, tree stems take a series of successive nested shapes. Individual tree growth models traditionally focus on apical growth and architecture. However, cambial growth, which is distributed over a surface layer wrapping the whole organism, equally contributes to plant form and function. This study aims at providing a framework to simulate how organism shape evolves as a result of a secondary growth process that occurs at the cellular scale.
The development of the vascular cambium is modelled as an expanding surface using the level set method. The surface consists of multiple compartments following distinct expansion rules. Growth behaviour can be formulated as a mathematical function of surface state variables and independent variables to describe biological processes.
The model was coupled to an architectural model and to a forest stand model to simulate cambium dynamics and wood formation at the scale of the organism. The model is able to simulate competition between cambia, surface irregularities and local features. Predicting the shapes associated with arbitrarily complex growth functions does not add complexity to the numerical method itself.
Despite their slenderness, it is sometimes useful to conceive of trees as expanding surfaces. The proposed mathematical framework provides a way to integrate through time and space the biological and physical mechanisms underlying cambium activity. It can be used either to test growth hypotheses or to generate detailed maps of wood internal structure.
Dynamic model; level sets; surface growth; vascular cambium; wood formation
Wood formation in trees is a dynamic process that is strongly affected by environmental factors. However, the impact of ozone on wood is poorly documented. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of ozone on wood formation by focusing on the two major wood components, cellulose and lignin, and analysing any anatomical modifications. Young hybrid poplars (Populus tremula×alba) were cultivated under different ozone concentrations (50, 100, 200, and 300 nl l−1). As upright poplars usually develop tension wood in a non-set pattern, the trees were bent in order to induce tension wood formation on the upper side of the stem and normal or opposite wood on the lower side. Biosynthesis of cellulose and lignin (enzymes and RNA levels), together with cambial growth, decreased in response to ozone exposure. The cellulose to lignin ratio was reduced, suggesting that cellulose biosynthesis was more affected than that of lignin. Tension wood was generally more altered than opposite wood, especially at the anatomical level. Tension wood may be more susceptible to reduced carbon allocation to the stems under ozone exposure. These results suggested a coordinated regulation of cellulose and lignin deposition to sustain mechanical strength under ozone. The modifications of the cellulose to lignin ratio and wood anatomy could allow the tree to maintain radial growth while minimizing carbon cost.
Cellulose; lignin; ozone; poplar; tension wood
Wood is a major renewable natural resource for the timber, fibre and bioenergy industry. Pinus radiata D. Don is the most important commercial plantation tree species in Australia and several other countries; however, genomic resources for this species are very limited in public databases. Our primary objective was to sequence a large number of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from genes involved in wood formation in radiata pine.
Six developing xylem cDNA libraries were constructed from earlywood and latewood tissues sampled at juvenile (7 yrs), transition (11 yrs) and mature (30 yrs) ages, respectively. These xylem tissues represent six typical development stages in a rotation period of radiata pine. A total of 6,389 high quality ESTs were collected from 5,952 cDNA clones. Assembly of 5,952 ESTs from 5' end sequences generated 3,304 unigenes including 952 contigs and 2,352 singletons. About 97.0% of the 5,952 ESTs and 96.1% of the unigenes have matches in the UniProt and TIGR databases. Of the 3,174 unigenes with matches, 42.9% were not assigned GO (Gene Ontology) terms and their functions are unknown or unclassified. More than half (52.1%) of the 5,952 ESTs have matches in the Pfam database and represent 772 known protein families. About 18.0% of the 5,952 ESTs matched cell wall related genes in the MAIZEWALL database, representing all 18 categories, 91 of all 174 families and possibly 557 genes. Fifteen cell wall-related genes are ranked in the 30 most abundant genes, including CesA, tubulin, AGP, SAMS, actin, laccase, CCoAMT, MetE, phytocyanin, pectate lyase, cellulase, SuSy, expansin, chitinase and UDP-glucose dehydrogenase. Based on the PlantTFDB database 41 of the 64 transcription factor families in the poplar genome were identified as being involved in radiata pine wood formation. Comparative analysis of GO term abundance revealed a distinct transcriptome in juvenile earlywood formation compared to other stages of wood development.
The first large scale genomic resource in radiata pine was generated from six developing xylem cDNA libraries. Cell wall-related genes and transcription factors were identified. Juvenile earlywood has a distinct transcriptome, which is likely to contribute to the undesirable properties of juvenile wood in radiata pine. The publicly available resource of radiata pine will also be valuable for gene function studies and comparative genomics in forest trees.