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1.  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
2.  Impact of drought on the temporal dynamics of wood formation in Pinus sylvestris 
Tree physiology  2010;30(4):490-501.
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.
PMCID: PMC3046340  PMID: 20197285
Cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; tracheid production; xylogenesis
3.  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
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.  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
6.  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
7.  Comparing growth phenology of co-occurring deciduous and evergreen conifers exposed to drought 
Flora  2013;208(10-12):609-617.
Plant phenological events are influenced by climate factors such as temperature and rainfall. To evaluate phenological responses to water availability in a Spring Heath-Pine wood (Erico-Pinetum typicum), the focus of this study was to determine intra-annual dynamics of apical and lateral growth of co-occurring early successional Larix decidua and Pinus sylvestris and late successional Picea abies exposed to drought. The effect of reduced plant water availability on growth phenology was investigated by conducting a rainfall exclusion experiment. Timing of key phenological dates (onset, maximum rate, end, duration) of growth processes were compared among species at the rain-sheltered and control plot during 2011 and 2012. Shoot and needle elongation were monitored on lateral branches in the canopy at c. 16 m height and radial growth was recorded by automatic dendrometers at c. 1.3 m height of > 120 yr old trees. Different sequences in aboveground growth phenology were detected among the three species under the same growing conditions. While onset of radial growth in April through early May was considerably preceded by onset of needle growth in Larix decidua (5 - 6 weeks) and shoot growth in Pinus sylvestris (c. 3 weeks), it occurred quite simultaneously with onset of shoot growth in Picea abies. Low water availability had a minor impact on onset of aboveground growth, which is related to utilization of stored water, but caused premature cessation of aboveground growth. At the control plot mean growing season length was 130 days in Pinus sylvestris, 95 days in Larix decidua and 73 days in Picea abies supporting the hypothesis that early successional species are resource expenders, while late successional species are more efficient in utilizing resources and develop safer life strategies. High synchronicity found in culmination of radial growth in late spring (mid-May through early June) prior to occurrence of more favourable environmental conditions in summer might indicate sink competition for carbohydrates to belowground organs. This is supported by completion of apical growth in mid June in all species, except for needle growth of Pinus sylvestris, which lasted until early August. Phenological observations of conifers exposed to drought revealed that tree water status early during the growing season determines total annual aboveground growth and besides temperature, species-specific endogenous and/or environmental factors (most likely photoperiod and/or different threshold temperatures) are involved in controlling apical and lateral growth resumption after winter dormancy.
PMCID: PMC3836407  PMID: 24273375
aboveground growth; drought; intra-annual growth; mixed conifer forest; phenology; tree growth
8.  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
9.  Age-dependent climate-growth relationships and regeneration of Picea abies in a drought-prone mixed coniferous forest in the Alps 
Within dry inner Alpine environments climate warming is expected to affect the development of forest ecosystems by changing species composition and inducing shifts in forest distribution. By applying dendroecological techniques we evaluated climate sensitivity of radial growth and establishment of Picea abies in a drought-prone mixed-coniferous forest in the Austrian Alps. Time series of annual increments were developed from > 220 trees and assigned to four age classes. While radial growth of old P. abies trees (mean age 121 and 174 yr) responded highly significant to May-June precipitation, young trees (mean age 28 and 53 yr) were insensitive to precipitation in the current year. Because tree age was closely correlated to height and diameter (r2 = 0.709 and 0.784, respectively), we relate our findings to the increase in tree size rather than age per se. Synchronicity found among trend in basal area increment and tree establishment suggests that canopy openings increased light and water availability, which favoured growth and establishment of moderately shade-tolerant P. abies. We conclude that although P. abies is able to regenerate at this drought prone site, increasing inter-tree competition for water in dense stands gradually lowers competitive strength and restricts scattered occurrence to dry-mesic sites.
PMCID: PMC3766819  PMID: 24027351
10.  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
11.  Using Automated Point Dendrometers to Analyze Tropical Treeline Stem Growth at Nevado de Colima, Mexico 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2010;10(6):5827-5844.
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.
PMCID: PMC3247734  PMID: 22219689
point dendrometers; radial growth; tree rings; dendroecology; high elevation ecosystems; Mexican mountain pine; Pinus hartwegii Lindl.; Volcán de Fuego
12.  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
13.  Responses of sap flow, leaf gas exchange and growth of hybrid aspen to elevated atmospheric humidity under field conditions 
AoB Plants  2014;6:plu021.
We demonstrate that higher air humidity mitigates the effect of low soil water availability on broadleaved trees during dry years by reducing stomatal limitation to photosynthesis, allowing higher net photosynthetic rates and supporting higher growth rates. At the same time, rising atmospheric humidity increases sensitivity of canopy conductance to water deficit and reduces the responsiveness of intrinsic water-use efficiency. The results imply that a future rise in atmospheric humidity at high latitudes may be disadvantageous in evenly rainy/humid years and expose trees to higher dehydration risk during weather extremes, although mitigating the impact of soil water deficit under moderate drought.
An increase in average air temperature and frequency of rain events is predicted for higher latitudes by the end of the 21st century, accompanied by a probable rise in air humidity. We currently lack knowledge on how forest trees acclimate to rising air humidity in temperate climates. We analysed the leaf gas exchange, sap flow and growth characteristics of hybrid aspen (Populus tremula × P. tremuloides) trees growing at ambient and artificially elevated air humidity in an experimental forest plantation situated in the hemiboreal vegetation zone. Humidification manipulation did not affect the photosynthetic capacity of plants, but did affect stomatal responses: trees growing at elevated air humidity had higher stomatal conductance at saturating photosynthetically active radiation (gs sat) and lower intrinsic water-use efficiency (IWUE). Reduced stomatal limitation of photosynthesis in trees grown at elevated air humidity allowed slightly higher net photosynthesis and relative current-year height increments than in trees at ambient air humidity. Tree responses suggest a mitigating effect of higher air humidity on trees under mild water stress. At the same time, trees at higher air humidity demonstrated a reduced sensitivity of IWUE to factors inducing stomatal closure and a steeper decline in canopy conductance in response to water deficit, implying higher dehydration risk. Despite the mitigating impact of increased air humidity under moderate drought, a future rise in atmospheric humidity at high latitudes may be disadvantageous for trees during weather extremes and represents a potential threat in hemiboreal forest ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC4052457  PMID: 24887000
Atmospheric humidity; canopy conductance; climate change; net photosynthesis; photosynthetic capacity; relative stomatal limitation; stomatal conductance; water-use efficiency.
14.  Significant Mean and Extreme Climate Sensitivity of Norway Spruce and Silver Fir at Mid-Elevation Mesic Sites in the Alps 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50755.
Climate forcing is the major abiotic driver for forest ecosystem functioning and thus significantly affects the role of forests within the global carbon cycle and related ecosystem services. Annual radial increments of trees are probably the most valuable source of information to link tree growth and climate at long-term time scales, and have been used in a wide variety of investigations worldwide. However, especially in mountainous areas, tree-ring studies have focused on extreme environments where the climate sensitivity is perhaps greatest but are necessarily a biased representation of the forests within a region. We used tree-ring analyses to study two of the most important tree species growing in the Alps: Norway spruce (Picea abies) and silver fir (Abies alba). We developed tree-ring chronologies from 13 mesic mid-elevation sites (203 trees) and then compared them to monthly temperature and precipitation data for the period 1846–1995. Correlation functions, principal component analysis and fuzzy C-means clustering were applied to 1) assess the climate/growth relationships and their stationarity and consistency over time, and 2) extract common modes of variability in the species responses to mean and extreme climate variability. Our results highlight a clear, time-stable, and species-specific response to mean climate conditions. However, during the previous-year's growing season, which shows the strongest correlations, the primary difference between species is in their response to extreme events, not mean conditions. Mesic sites at mid-altitude are commonly underrepresented in tree-ring research; we showed that strong climatic controls of growth may exist even in those areas. Extreme climatic events may play a key role in defining the species-specific responses on climatic sensitivity and, with a global change perspective, specific divergent responses are likely to occur even where current conditions are less limited.
PMCID: PMC3510186  PMID: 23209823
15.  Dynamics of Depletion and Replenishment of Water Storage in Stem and Roots of Black Spruce Measured by Dendrometers 
In the short term, trees rely on the internal storage of water because it affects their ability to sustain photosynthesis and growth. However, water is not rapidly available for transpiration from all the compartments of the plant and the living tissues of the stem act as a buffer to preclude low water potentials during peaks of transpiration. In this paper, electronic dendrometers were used from mid-June to mid-September 2008 to compare the radius variations in stem and roots of black spruce [Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.] in two sites of the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada, with different soil characteristics and water retention. The duration of the daily cycles was similar between sites and measurement heights but greater amplitudes of contraction and expansion were observed on the stem and in the site with the shallowest soil organic layer. The expansion phase had higher amplitudes and lasted longer than contraction. On average, the contraction phase occurred between 07:00 and 16:30 (legal time), while expansion lasted 14.5 h. The roots in the site with the deepest organic layer showed a wider variation in the onset of contraction, which could be as late as 13:00. The probability of observing the contraction phase depended on precipitation. With a precipitation <0.5 mm h−1, the bivariate posterior probabilities estimated >60% probability of observing contraction between 05:00 and 21:00, decreasing to 20% with precipitation >1.1 mm h−1. These findings demonstrated that the depth of the organic layer plays an important role in maintaining the internal water reserve of trees. The dynamics of water depletion and replenishment can modify the water potential of xylem and cell turgor during the enlargement phase, thus affecting radial growth. Changes in temperature and precipitation regime could influence the dynamics of internal water storage in trees growing on shallower and drier soils.
PMCID: PMC3355585  PMID: 22639583
boreal forest; climate change; stem cycle approach; plant–water relationships; soil depth; water reserves
16.  Contrasting drought tolerance strategies in two desert annuals of hybrid origin 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(10):2769-2778.
Woody plants native to mesic habitats tend to be more vulnerable to drought-induced cavitation than those in xeric habitats. Cavitation resistance in herbaceous plants, however, is rarely studied and whether or not annual plants in arid habitats conform to the trends observed in woody plants is unknown. This question is addressed by comparing the hydraulic properties of annual plants endemic to relatively mesic and seasonally xeric habitats in the Great Basin Desert, in both native and experimental settings. Vulnerability to cavitation between species differed as predicted when vulnerability curves of similar-sized native individuals were compared. Contrary to expectations, Helianthus anomalus from the relatively mesic dune sites, on average, exhibited higher native embolism, lower soil-to-leaf hydraulic conductance (kL) and lower transpiration rates, than its xeric analogue, H. deserticola. In transplant gardens, H. anomalus’ vulnerability to cavitation was unaffected by transplant location or watering treatment. In H. deserticola, however, vulnerability to cavitation varied significantly in response to watering in transplant gardens and varied as a function of stem water potential (Ψstem). H. deserticola largely avoided cavitation through its higher water status and generally more resistant xylem, traits consistent with a short life cycle and typical drought-escape strategy. By contrast, H. anomalus’ higher native embolism is likely to be adaptive by lowering plant conductance and transpiration rate, thus preventing the loss of root-to-soil hydraulic contact in the coarse sand dune soils. For H. anomalus this dehydration avoidance strategy is consistent with its relatively long 3–4 month life cycle and low-competition habitat. We conclude that variance of hydraulic parameters in herbaceous plants is a function of soil moisture heterogeneity and is consistent with the notion that trait plasticity to fine-grained environmental variation can be adaptive.
PMCID: PMC2882268  PMID: 20435695
Adaptation; arid habitats; safety margin; sand dunes; sunflowers; water potential; xylem cavitation
17.  A Patchy Growth via Successive and Simultaneous Cambia: Key to Success of the Most Widespread Mangrove Species Avicennia marina? 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(1):49-58.
Background and Aims
Secondary growth via successive cambia has been intriguing researchers for decades. Insight into the mechanism of growth layer formation is, however, limited to the cellular level. The present study aims to clarify secondary growth via successive cambia in the mangrove species Avicennia marina on a macroscopic level, addressing the formation of the growth layer network as a whole. In addition, previously suggested effects of salinity on growth layer formation were reconsidered.
A 1-year cambial marking experiment was performed on 80 trees from eight sites in two mangrove forests in Kenya. Environmental (soil water salinity and nutrients, soil texture, inundation frequency) and tree characteristics (diameter, height, leaf area index) were recorded for each site. Both groups of variables were analysed in relation to annual number of growth layers, annual radial increment and average growth layer width of stem discs.
Key Results
Between trees of the same site, the number of growth layers formed during the 1-year study period varied from only part of a growth layer up to four growth layers, and was highly correlated to the corresponding radial increment (0–5 mm year–1), even along the different sides of asymmetric stem discs. The radial increment was unrelated to salinity, but the growth layer width decreased with increasing salinity and decreasing tree height.
A patchy growth mechanism was proposed, with an optimal growth at distinct moments in time at different positions around the stem circumference. This strategy creates the opportunity to form several growth layers simultaneously, as observed in 14 % of the studied trees, which may optimize tree growth under favourable conditions. Strong evidence was provided for a mainly endogenous trigger controlling cambium differentiation, with an additional influence of current environmental conditions in a trade-off between hydraulic efficiency and mechanical stability.
PMCID: PMC2701843  PMID: 18006508
Avicenia marina; cambial marking; mangrove; phloem; salinity; secondary growth; successive cambia; xylem
18.  Differential Growth Responses to Water Balance of Coexisting Deciduous Tree Species Are Linked to Wood Density in a Bolivian Tropical Dry Forest 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e73855.
A seasonal period of water deficit characterizes tropical dry forests (TDFs). There, sympatric tree species exhibit a diversity of growth rates, functional traits, and responses to drought, suggesting that each species may possess different strategies to grow under different conditions of water availability. The evaluation of the long-term growth responses to changes in the soil water balance should provide an understanding of how and when coexisting tree species respond to water deficit in TDFs. Furthermore, such differential growth responses may be linked to functional traits related to water storage and conductance. We used dendrochronology and climate data to retrospectively assess how the radial growth of seven coexisting deciduous tree species responded to the seasonal soil water balance in a Bolivian TDF. Linear mixed-effects models were used to quantify the relationships between basal area increment and seasonal water balance. We related these relationships with wood density and sapwood production to assess if they affect the growth responses to climate. The growth of all species responded positively to water balance during the wet season, but such responses differed among species as a function of their wood density. For instance, species with a strong growth response to water availability averaged a low wood density which may facilitate the storage of water in the stem. By contrast, species with very dense wood were those whose growth was less sensitive to water availability. Coexisting tree species thus show differential growth responses to changes in soil water balance during the wet season. Our findings also provide a link between wood density, a trait related to the ability of trees to store water in the stem, and wood formation in response to water availability.
PMCID: PMC3792103  PMID: 24116001
19.  Drought-Adaptation Potential in Fagus sylvatica: Linking Moisture Availability with Genetic Diversity and Dendrochronology 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33636.
Microevolution is essential for species persistence especially under anticipated climate change scenarios. Species distribution projection models suggested that the dominant tree species of lowland forests in Switzerland, European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), might disappear from most areas due to expected longer dry periods. However, if genotypes at the moisture boundary of the species climatic envelope are adapted to lower moisture availability, they can serve as seed source for the continuation of beech forests under changing climates.
Methodology/Principal Findings
With an AFLP genome scan approach, we studied neutral and potentially adaptive genetic variation in Fagus sylvatica in three regions containing a dry and a mesic site each (nind. = 241, nmarkers = 517). We linked this dataset with dendrochronological growth measures and local moisture availabilities based on precipitation and soil characteristics. Genetic diversity decreased slightly at dry sites. Overall genetic differentiation was low (Fst = 0.028) and Bayesian cluster analysis grouped all populations together suggesting high (historical) gene flow. The Bayesian outlier analyses indicated 13 markers with three markers differing between all dry and mesic sites and the others between the contrasting sites within individual regions. A total of 41 markers, including seven outlier loci, changed their frequency with local moisture availability. Tree height and median basal growth increments were reduced at dry sites, but marker presence/absence was not related to dendrochronological characteristics.
Conclusion and Their Significance
The outlier alleles and the makers with changing frequencies in relation to moisture availability indicate microevolutionary processes occurring within short geographic distances. The general genetic similarity among sites suggests that ‘preadaptive’ genes can easily spread across the landscape. Yet, due to the long live span of trees, fostering saplings originating from dry sites and grown within mesic sites might increase resistance of beech forests during the anticipated longer dry periods.
PMCID: PMC3308988  PMID: 22448260
20.  Radial Growth of Qilian Juniper on the Northeast Tibetan Plateau and Potential Climate Associations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79362.
There is controversy regarding the limiting climatic factor for tree radial growth at the alpine treeline on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. In this study, we collected 594 increment cores from 331 trees, grouped within four altitude belts spanning the range 3550 to 4020 m.a.s.l. on a single hillside. We have developed four equivalent ring-width chronologies and shown that there are no significant differences in their growth-climate responses during 1956 to 2011 or in their longer-term growth patterns during the period AD 1110–2011. The main climate influence on radial growth is shown to be precipitation variability. Missing ring analysis shows that tree radial growth at the uppermost treeline location is more sensitive to climate variation than that at other elevations, and poor tree radial growth is particularly linked to the occurrence of serious drought events. Hence water limitation, rather than temperature stress, plays the pivotal role in controlling the radial growth of Sabina przewalskii Kom. at the treeline in this region. This finding contradicts any generalisation that tree-ring chronologies from high-elevation treeline environments are mostly indicators of temperature changes.
PMCID: PMC3828375  PMID: 24244488
21.  Pan-Tropical Analysis of Climate Effects on Seasonal Tree Growth 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92337.
Climate models predict a range of changes in tropical forest regions, including increased average temperatures, decreased total precipitation, reduced soil moisture and alterations in seasonal climate variations. These changes are directly related to the increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, primarily CO2. Assessing seasonal forest growth responses to climate is of utmost importance because woody tissues, produced by photosynthesis from atmospheric CO2, water and light, constitute the main component of carbon sequestration in the forest ecosystem. In this paper, we combine intra-annual tree growth measurements from published tree growth data and the corresponding monthly climate data for 25 pan-tropical forest sites. This meta-analysis is designed to find the shared climate drivers of tree growth and their relative importance across pan-tropical forests in order to improve carbon uptake models in a global change context. Tree growth reveals significant intra-annual seasonality at seasonally dry sites or in wet tropical forests. Of the overall variation in tree growth, 28.7% was explained by the site effect, i.e. the tree growth average per site. The best predictive model included four climate variables: precipitation, solar radiation (estimated with extrasolar radiation reaching the atmosphere), temperature amplitude and relative soil water content. This model explained more than 50% of the tree growth variations across tropical forests. Precipitation and solar radiation are the main seasonal drivers of tree growth, causing 19.8% and 16.3% of the tree growth variations. Both have a significant positive association with tree growth. These findings suggest that forest productivity due to tropical tree growth will be reduced in the future if climate extremes, such as droughts, become more frequent.
PMCID: PMC3966775  PMID: 24670981
22.  Population-genetic analysis of HvABCG31 promoter sequence in wild barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum) 
The cuticle is an important adaptive structure whose origin played a crucial role in the transition of plants from aqueous to terrestrial conditions. HvABCG31/Eibi1 is an ABCG transporter gene, involved in cuticle formation that was recently identified in wild barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum). To study the genetic variation of HvABCG31 in different habitats, its 2 kb promoter region was sequenced from 112 wild barley accessions collected from five natural populations from southern and northern Israel. The sites included three mesic and two xeric habitats, and differed in annual rainfall, soil type, and soil water capacity.
Phylogenetic analysis of the aligned HvABCG31 promoter sequences clustered the majority of accessions (69 out of 71) from the three northern mesic populations into one cluster, while all 21 accessions from the Dead Sea area, a xeric southern population, and two isolated accessions (one from a xeric population at Mitzpe Ramon and one from the xeric ‘African Slope’ of “Evolution Canyon”) formed the second cluster. The southern arid populations included six haplotypes, but they differed from the consensus sequence at a large number of positions, while the northern mesic populations included 15 haplotypes that were, on average, more similar to the consensus sequence. Most of the haplotypes (20 of 22) were unique to a population. Interestingly, higher genetic variation occurred within populations (54.2%) than among populations (45.8%). Analysis of the promoter region detected a large number of transcription factor binding sites: 121–128 and 121–134 sites in the two southern arid populations, and 123–128,125–128, and 123–125 sites in the three northern mesic populations. Three types of TFBSs were significantly enriched: those related to GA (gibberellin), Dof (DNA binding with one finger), and light.
Drought stress and adaptive natural selection may have been important determinants in the observed sequence variation of HvABCG31 promoter. Abiotic stresses may be involved in the HvABCG31 gene transcription regulations, generating more protective cuticles in plants under stresses.
PMCID: PMC3544613  PMID: 23006777
Wild barley; HvABCG31; Promoter; Phylogenetic; TFBSs
23.  Radial Growth of Two Dominant Montane Conifer Tree Species in Response to Climate Change in North-Central China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112537.
North-Central China is a region in which the air temperature has clearly increased for several decades. Picea meyeri and Larix principis-rupprechtii are the most dominant co-occurring tree species within the cold coniferous forest belt ranging vertically from 1800 m to 2800 m a.s.l. in this region. Based on a tree-ring analysis of 292 increment cores sampled from 146 trees at different elevations, this study aimed to examine if the radial growth of the two species in response to climate is similar, whether the responses are consistent along altitudinal gradients and which species might be favored in the future driven by the changing climate. The results indicated the following: (1) The two species grew in different rhythms at low and high elevation respectively; (2) Both species displayed inconsistent relationships between radial growth and climate data along altitudinal gradients. The correlation between radial growth and the monthly mean temperature in the spring or summer changed from negative at low elevation into positive at high elevation, whereas those between the radial growth and the total monthly precipitation displayed a change from positive into negative along the elevation gradient. These indicate the different influences of the horizontal climate and vertical mountainous climate on the radial growth of the two species; (3) The species-dependent different response to climate in radial growth appeared mainly in autumn of the previous year. The radial growth of L. principis-rupprechtii displayed negative responses both to temperature and to precipitation in the previous September, October or November, which was not observed in the radial growth of P. meyeri. (4) The radial growth of both species will tend to be increased at high elevation and limited at low elevation, and L. principis-rupprechtii might be more favored in the future, if the temperature keeps rising.
PMCID: PMC4231039  PMID: 25393738
24.  Tree Growth and Competition in a Betula platyphylla–Larix cajanderi Post-fire Forest in Central Kamchatka 
Annals of Botany  2004;94(3):333-343.
• Background and Aims Fire is the dominant disturbance in central Kamchatka boreal forests, yet patterns and mechanisms of stand recovery have not been investigated.
• Methods Measurements were made of 1433 stems ≥1·3 m height and annual radial increments of 225 randomly selected trees in a 0·4-ha plot of a 53-year-old fire-origin mixed-species stand to examine the spatio-temporal variation in establishment, growth, size inequality and the mode of competition among individual trees. Growth variations were related to tree size, age and local interference with neighbours.
• Key Results Betula platyphylla formed the main canopy following a fire in 1947, with Larix cajanderi and Pinus pumila progressively reinvading the lower tree and shrub stratum. Most B. platyphylla originated from sprouts in small patches (polycormons) during the first 15 post-fire years. Betula platyphylla had normal distributions of diameter and age classes, but negatively skewed height distribution, as expected from shade-intolerant, pioneer species. Larix cajanderi had fewer tall and many short individuals. The smaller and younger B. platyphylla grew disproportionately more in diameter than larger trees from 1950 to 1975, and hence stem size inequalities decreased. The reverse trend was observed from 1995 to 2000: larger trees grew more, indicating an increasing asymmetry of competition for light. Betula platyphylla had steady diameter growth in the first 25 post-fire years, after which the growth declined in smaller trees. Neighbourhood analysis showed that the decline resulted from increased competition from taller neighbours.
• Conclusions The observed growth patterns suggest that mode of interactions altered during stand development from early stages of weak competition for soil resources released by fire to later stages of asymmetric competition for light. Asymmetric crown competition started later than reported in other studies, which can be attributed to the lower stem density leaving much space for individual growth, greater relative importance of below-ground competition in this site of nutrient-poor volcanic soil, and the vegetative origin of B. platyphylla. Larix cajanderi growing under B. platyphylla had steady diameter growth during the first 20 years, after which growth declined. It is suggested that early succession fits the tolerance model of succession, while inhibition dominates in later stages.
PMCID: PMC4242174  PMID: 15256381
Size-dependent growth; individual-based spatial competition model; Ripley's K-function; stem size variability; competitive asymmetry; Richards model; stem allometry
25.  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

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