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
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 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
We determined the temporal dynamic of cambial activity and xylem development of stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) throughout the treeline ecotone. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring was carried out during the growing seasons 2006 and 2007 at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.), treeline (2110 m a.s.l.) and within the krummholz belt (2180 m a.s.l.) and the influence of climate variables on intra-annual wood formation was determined.
At the beginning of both growing seasons, highest numbers of cambial and enlarging cells were observed at the treeline. Soil temperatures at time of initiation of cambial activity were c. 1.5 °C higher at treeline (open canopy) compared to timberline (closed canopy), suggesting that a threshold root-zone temperature is involved in triggering onset of above ground stem growth.
The rate of xylem cell production determined in two weekly intervals during June through August 2006-2007 was significantly correlated with air temperature (temperature sums expressed as degree-days and mean daily maximum temperature) at the timberline only. Lack of significant relationships between tracheid production and temperature variables at the treeline and within the krummholz belt support past dendroclimatological studies that more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., wind exposure, frost desiccation, late frost) increasingly control tree growth above timberline.
Results of this study revealed that spatial and temporal (i.e. year-to-year) variability in timing and dynamic of wood formation of Pinus cembra is strongly influenced by local site factors within the treeline ecotone and the dynamics of seasonal temperature variation, respectively.
Cambium; intra-annual growth; Pinus cembra; temperature; tracheid production
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
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
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
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
Background and Aims
Teak forms xylem rings that potentially carry records of carbon sequestration and climate in the tropics. These records are only useful when the structural variations of tree rings and their periodicity of formation are known.
The seasonality of ring formation in mature teak trees was examined via correlative analysis of cambial activity, xylem and phloem formation, and climate throughout 1·5 years. Xylem and phloem differentiation were visualized by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.
A 3 month dry season resulted in semi-deciduousness, cambial dormancy and formation of annual xylem growth rings (AXGRs). Intra-annual xylem and phloem growth was characterized by variable intensity. Morphometric features of cambium such as cambium thickness and differentiating xylem layers were positively correlated. Cambium thickness was strongly correlated with monthly rainfall (R2 = 0·7535). In all sampled trees, xylem growth zones (XGZs) were formed within the AXGRs during the seasonal development of new foliage. When trees achieved full leaf, the xylem in the new XGZs appeared completely differentiated and functional for water transport. Two phloem growth rings were formed in one growing season.
The seasonal formation pattern and microstructure of teak xylem suggest that AXGRs and XGZs can be used as proxies for analyses of the tree history and climate at annual and intra-annual resolution.
Growth rings; teak; Tectona grandis; vascular cambium; xylem and phloem formation
Recent large-scale studies of tree growth in the Iberian Peninsula reported contrasting positive and negative effects of temperature in Mediterranean angiosperms and conifers. Here we review the different hypotheses that may explain these trends and propose that the observed contrasting responses of tree growth to temperature in this region could be associated with a continuum of trait differences between angiosperms and conifers. Angiosperm and conifer trees differ in the effects of phenology in their productivity, in their growth allometry, and in their sensitivity to competition. Moreover, angiosperms and conifers significantly differ in hydraulic safety margins, sensitivity of stomatal conductance to vapor-pressure deficit (VPD), xylem recovery capacity or the rate of carbon transfer. These differences could be explained by key features of the xylem such as non-structural carbohydrate content (NSC), wood parenchymal fraction or wood capacitance. We suggest that the reviewed trait differences define two contrasting ecophysiological strategies that may determine qualitatively different growth responses to increased temperature and drought. Improved reciprocal common garden experiments along altitudinal or latitudinal gradients would be key to quantify the relative importance of the different hypotheses reviewed. Finally, we show that warming impacts in this area occur in an ecological context characterized by the advance of forest succession and increased dominance of angiosperm trees over extensive areas. In this context, we examined the empirical relationships between the responses of tree growth to temperature and hydraulic safety margins in angiosperm and coniferous trees. Our findings suggest a future scenario in Mediterranean forests characterized by contrasting demographic responses in conifer and angiosperm trees to both temperature and forest succession, with increased dominance of angiosperm trees, and particularly negative impacts in pines.
conifers; angiosperms; functional traits; mediterranean ecosystems; drought; temperature; carbon metabolism; growth
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.
Basal area increment; Dendroclimatology; Inner Alpine valley; Radial growth; Moving response function; Tree-ring analysis
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
For both ecologists and physiologists, foliar physioecology as a function of spatially and temporally variable environmental factors such as sunlight exposure within a tree crown is important for understanding whole tree physiology and for predicting ecosystem carbon balance and productivity. Hence, we studied concentrations of nitrogen (N), non-structural carbohydrates (NSC = soluble sugars + starch), and δ13C in different-aged needles within Pinus koraiensis tree crowns, to understand the needle age- and crown position-related physiology, in order to test the hypothesis that concentrations of N, NSC, and δ13C are needle-age and crown position dependent (more light, more photosynthesis affecting N, NSC, and δ13C), and to develop an accurate sampling strategy. The present study indicated that the 1-yr-old needles had significantly higher concentration levels of mobile carbohydrates (both on a mass and an area basis) and Narea (on an area basis), as well as NSC-N ratios, but significantly lower levels of Nmass (on a mass basis) concentration and specific leaf area (SLA), compared to the current-year needles. Azimuthal (south-facing vs. north-facing crown side) effects were found to be significant on starch [both on a mass (STmass) and an area basis (STarea)], δ13C values, and Narea, with higher levels in needles on the S-facing crown side than the N-facing crown side. Needle Nmass concentrations significantly decreased but needle STmass, STarea, and δ13C values significantly increased with increasing vertical crown levels. Our results suggest that the sun-exposed crown position related to photosynthetic activity and water availability affects starch accumulation and carbon isotope discrimination. Needle age associated with physiological activity plays an important role in determining carbon and nitrogen physiology. The present study indicates that across-scale sampling needs to carefully select tissue samples with equal age from a comparable crown position.
Stored non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) have been proposed as a key determinant of drought resistance in plants. However, the evidence for this role is controversial, as it comes mostly from observational, short-term studies. Here, we take advantage of a long-term experimental throughfall reduction to elucidate the response of NSC to increased drought 14 years after the beginning of the treatment in three Mediterranean resprouter trees (Quercus ilex L., Arbutus unedo L. and Phillyrea latifolia L.). In addition, we selected 20 Q. ilex individuals outside the experimental plots to directly assess the relationship between defoliation and NSC at the individual level. We measured the seasonal course of NSC concentrations in leaves, branches and lignotuber in late winter, late spring, summer, and autumn 2012. Total concentrations of NSC were highest in the lignotuber for all species. In the long-term drought experiment we found significant depletion in concentrations of total NSC in treatment plots only in the lignotuber of A. unedo. At the same time, A. unedo was the only species showing a significant reduction in BAI under the drought treatment during the 14 years of the experiment. By contrast, Q. ilex just reduced stem growth only during the first 4 years of treatment and P. latifolia remained unaffected over the whole study period. However, we found a clear association between the concentrations of NSC and defoliation in Q. ilex individuals sampled outside the experimental plots, with lower total concentrations of NSC and lower proportion of starch in defoliated individuals. Taken together, our results suggest that stabilizing processes, probably at the stand level, may have been operating in the long-term to mitigate any impact of drought on NSC levels, and highlight the necessity to incorporate long-term experimental studies of plant responses to drought.
drought; crown condition; growth; long-term; non-structural carbohydrates; starch; throughfall manipulation
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
Variation in xylem structure and function has been extensively studied across different species with a wide taxonomic, geographical, and ecological coverage. In contrast, our understanding of how xylem of a single species can adjust to different growing condition remains limited. Here phenotypic and developmental plasticity in xylem traits of hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa×deltoides) was studied. Clonally propagated saplings were grown under experimental drought, nitrogen fertilization, and shade for >30 d. Xylem hydraulic and anatomical traits were subsequently examined in stem segments taken from two different vertical positions along the plant’s main axis. The experimental treatments affected growth and development and induced changes in xylem phenotype. Across all treatments, the amount of leaf area supported by stem segments (AL) scaled linearly with stem native hydraulic conductivity (K
native), suggesting that the area of assimilating leaves is constrained by the xylem transport capacity. In turn, K
native was mainly driven by the size of xylem cross-sectional area (AX). Moreover, the structural and functional properties of xylem varied significantly. Vulnerability to cavitation, measured as the xylem pressure inducing 50% loss of conductivity (P50), ranged from –1.71MPa to –0.15MPa in saplings subjected to drought and nitrogen fertilization, respectively. Across all treatments and stem segment positions, P50 was tightly correlated with wood density. In contrast, no relationship between P50 and xylem-specific conductivity (K
S) was observed. The results of this study enhance our knowledge of plant hydraulic acclimation and provide insights into common trade-offs that exist in xylem structure and function.
Cavitation; hydraulic conductivity; phenotypic plasticity; vessels; wood density; xylem embolism.
Background and Aims
Many physiological processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration can be strongly influenced by the diurnal patterns of within-tree water potential. Despite numerous experiments showing the effect of water potential on fruit-tree development and growth, there are very few models combining carbohydrate allocation with water transport. The aim of this work was to include a xylem circuit into the functional–structural L-PEACH model.
The xylem modelling was based on an electrical circuit analogy and the Hagen–Poisseuille law for hydraulic conductance. Sub-models for leaf transpiration, soil water potential and the soil–plant interface were also incorporated to provide the driving force and pathway for water flow. The model was assessed by comparing model outputs to field measurements and published knowledge.
The model was able to simulate both the water uptake over a season and the effect of different irrigation treatments on tree development, growth and fruit yield.
This work opens the way to a new field of modelling where complex interactions between water transport, carbohydrate allocation and physiological functions can be simulated at the organ level and describe functioning and behaviour at the tree scale.
Carbon allocation; water stress; xylem; functional–structural plant modelling; plant growth simulation; L-PEACH
Background and Aims
Plasticity in structural and functional traits related to water balance may determine plant performance and survival in ecosystems characterized by water limitation or high levels of rainfall variability, particularly in perennial herbaceous species with long generation cycles. This paper addresses whether and the extent to which several such seasonal to long-term traits respond to changes in moisture availability.
Using a novel approach that integrates ecology, physiology and anatomy, a comparison was made of lifetime functional traits in the root xylem of a long-lived perennial herb (Potentilla diversifolia, Rosaceae) growing in dry habitats with those of nearby individuals growing where soil moisture had been supplemented for 14 years. Traditional parameters such as specific leaf area (SLA) and above-ground growth were also assessed.
Individuals from the site receiving supplemental moisture consistently showed significant responses in all considered traits related to water balance: SLA was greater by 24 %; roots developed 19 % less starch storing tissue, an indicator for drought-stress tolerance; and vessel size distributions shifted towards wider elements that collectively conducted water 54 % more efficiently – but only during the years for which moisture was supplemented. In contrast, above-ground growth parameters showed insignificant or inconsistent responses.
The phenotypic changes documented represent consistent, dynamic responses to increased moisture availability that should increase plant competitive ability. The functional plasticity of xylem anatomy quantified in this study constitutes a mechanistic basis for anticipating the differential success of plant species in response to climate variability and change, particularly where water limitation occurs.
Alpine tundra; climate change; drought stress; functional anatomy; herb-chronology; hydraulic conductivity; intervascular xylem; phenotypic plasticity; Potentilla diversifolia; specific leaf area; starch; vessel size
During the development of many fleshy fruits, water flow becomes progressively more phloemic and less xylemic. In grape (Vitis vinifera L.), the current hypothesis to explain this change is that the tracheary elements of the peripheral xylem break as a result of berry growth, rendering the xylem structurally discontinuous and hence non-functional. Recent work, however, has shown via apoplastic dye movement through the xylem of post-veraison berries that the xylem should remain structurally intact throughout berry development. To corroborate this, peripheral xylem structure in developing Chardonnay berries was investigated via maceration and plastic sectioning. Macerations revealed that, contrary to current belief, the xylem was comprised mostly of vessels with few tracheids. In cross-section, the tracheary elements of the vascular bundles formed almost parallel radial files, with later formed elements toward the epidermis and earlier formed elements toward the centre of the berry. Most tracheary elements remained intact throughout berry maturation, consistent with recent reports of vascular dye movement in post-veraison berries.
Tracheary element; vasculature; vessel; water movement
Global change triggers shifts in forest composition, with warming and aridification being particularly threatening for the populations located at the rear edge of the species distributions. This is the case of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Mediterranean Basin where uncertainties in relation to its dynamics under these changing scenarios are still high. We analysed the relative effect of climate on the recruitment patterns of Scots pine and its interactions with local biotic and abiotic variables at different spatial scales. Number of seedlings and saplings was surveyed, and their annual shoot growth measured in 96 plots located across altitudinal gradients in three different regions in the Iberian Peninsula. We found a significant influence of climate on demography and performance of recruits, with a non-linear effect of temperature on the presence of juveniles, and a positive effect of precipitation on their survival. Abundance of juveniles of P. sylvestris that underwent their first summer drought was skewed towards higher altitudes than the altitudinal mean range of the conspecific adults and the optimum elevation for seedlings' emergence. At local level, light availability did not influence juveniles' density, but it enhanced their growth. Biotic interactions were found between juveniles and the herb cover (competition) and between the number of newly emerged seedlings and shrubs (facilitation). Results also highlighted the indirect effect that climate exerts over the local factors, modulating the interactions with the pre-existing vegetation that were more evident at more stressful sites. This multiscale approach improves our understanding of the dynamics of these marginal populations and some management criteria can be inferred to boost their conservation under the current global warming.
Accurate quantification of xylem sap ABA concentrations is important to underpin models of root-to-shoot ABA signalling to predict the physiological effects of soil drying. Growing tomato plants in a whole plant pressure chamber allowed sequential xylem sap collection from a detached leaf, the petiole stub of an otherwise intact plant and finally the de-topped root system of the same plant, to determine the impact of xylem sap sampling methodology on xylem ABA concentration. Since xylem sap can contain bound forms of ABA, a novel gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) procedure was developed to chemically separate free ABA from two in planta bound ABA forms known as Adducts I and II and ABA-glucose-ester (ABA-GE).
Xylem sap ABA concentrations were highly dependent on the sampling methodology used: the highest concentrations were detected in sap collected by applying an overpressure to detached leaves following the measurement of leaf water potential. Irrespective of xylem sap source, the wild-type cultivars Ailsa Craig and Rheinlands Ruhm had higher free ABA concentrations than a range of ABA-deficient mutants (notabilis, flacca and sitiens). However, in the mutants, concentrations of bound forms of ABA were similar to wild-type plants, and similar to free ABA concentrations.
Although xylem concentrations of these bound ABA forms and ABA-GE suggest they have a limited physiological impact on ABA homeostasis in tomato, the methods developed here will allow a more complete understanding of ABA biochemistry and root-to-shoot signalling in species known to have higher concentrations of these compounds.
ABA; ABA-GE; flacca; GC-MS; notabilis; Mutant; sitiens; Tomato; Xylem sap
In Norway spruce, a fungistatic reaction zone with a high pH and enrichment of phenolics is formed in the sapwood facing heartwood colonized by the white-rot fungus Heterobasidion parviporum. Fungal penetration of the reaction zone eventually results in expansion of this xylem defense. To obtain information about mechanisms operating upon heartwood and reaction zone colonization by the pathogen, hyphal growth and wood degradation were investigated using real-time PCR, microscopy, and comparative wood density analysis of naturally colonized trees with extensive stem decay. The hyphae associated with delignified wood at stump level were devoid of any extracellular matrix, whereas incipient decay at the top of decay columns was characterized by a carbohydrate-rich hyphal sheath attaching hyphae to tracheid walls. The amount of pathogen DNA peaked in aniline wood, a narrow darkened tissue at the colony border apparently representing a compromised region of the reaction zone. Vigorous production of pathogen conidiophores occurred in this region. Colonization of aniline wood was characterized by hyphal growth within polyphenolic lumen deposits in tracheids and rays, and the hyphae were fully encased in a carbohydrate-rich extracellular matrix. Together, these data indicate that the interaction of the fungus with the reaction zone involves a local concentration of fungal biomass that forms an efficient translocation channel for nutrients. Finally, the enhanced production of the hyphal sheath may be instrumental in lateral expansion of the decay column beyond the reaction zone boundary.
Background and Aims
Trees universally decrease their growth with age. Most explanations for this trend so far support the hypothesis that carbon (C) gain becomes limited with age; though very few studies have directly assessed the relative reductions of C gain and C demand with tree age. It has also been suggested that drought enhances the effect of C gain limitation in trees. Here tests were carried out to determine whether C gain limitation is causing the growth decay with tree age, and whether drought accentuates its effect.
The balance between C gain and C demand across tree age and height ranges was estimated. For this, the concentration of non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) in stems and roots of trees of different ages and heights was measured in the deciduous temperate species Nothofagus pumilio. An ontogenetic decrease in NSCs indicates support for C limitation. Furthermore, the importance of drought in altering the C balance with ontogeny was assessed by sampling the same species in Mediterranean and humid climate locations in the southern Andes of Chile. Wood density (WD) and stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) were also determined to examine drought constraints on C gain.
At both locations, it was effectively found that tree growth ultimately decreased with tree age and height. It was found, however, that NSC concentrations did not decrease with tree age or height when WD was considered, suggesting that C limitation is not the ultimate mechanism causing the age/height-related declining tree growth. δ13C decreased with tree age/height at the Mediterranean site only; drought effect increased with tree age/height, but this pattern was not mirrored by the levels of NSCs.
The results indicate that concentrations of C storage in N. pumilio trees do not decrease with tree age or height, and that reduced C assimilation due to summer drought does not alter this pattern.
Carbon isotope composition; drought; hydraulic limitation hypothesis; Mediterranean climate; non-structural carbohydrates; Nothofagus pumilio; ontogeny; Patagonia
Hemi-boreal forests, which make up the transition from temperate deciduous forests to boreal forests in southern Siberia, have experienced significant warming without any accompanying increase in precipitation during the last 80 years. This climatic change could have a profound impact on tree growth and on the stability of forest ecosystems in this region, but at present evidence for these impacts is lacking. In this study, we report a recent dramatic decline in the growth of hemi-boreal forests, based on ring width measurements from three dominant tree-species (Pinus sylvestris, Larix sibirica and Larix gmelinii), sampled from eight sites in the region. We found that regional tree growth has become increasingly limited by low soil water content in the pre- and early-growing season (from October of the previous year to July of the current year) over the past 80 years. A warming-induced reduction in soil water content has also increased the climate sensitivity of these three tree species. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a clear decline in growth is evident for both the pine forests and the larch forests, although there are increasing trends in the proxy of soil water use efficiencies. Our findings are consistent with those from other parts of the world and provide valuable insights into the regional carbon cycle and vegetation dynamics, and should be useful for devising adaptive forest management strategies.
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.