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1.  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
2.  Climatic influences on intra-annual stem radial increment of Pinus sylvestris (L.) exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2010;24(5):887-898.
Within a dry inner Alpine valley in the Eastern Central Alps (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) the influence of climate variables (precipitation, air humidity, temperature) and soil water content on intra-annual dynamics of tree-ring development was determined in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) at two sites differing in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site). Radial stem development was continuously followed during 2007 and 2008 by band dendrometers and repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree rings of mature trees. Daily and seasonal fluctuations of the stem radius, which reached almost half of total annual increment, primarily reflected changes in tree water status and masked radial stem growth especially during drought periods in spring. However, temporal dynamics of intra-annual radial growth determined by both methods were found to be quite similar, when onset of radial growth in dendrometer traces was defined by the occurrence of first enlarging xylem cells. Radial increments during the growing period, which lasted from early April through early August showed statistically significant relationships with precipitation (Kendall τ = 0.234, p < 0.01, and τ = 0.184, p < 0.05, at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively) and relative air humidity (Pearson r = 0.290, p < 0.05, and r = 0.306, p < 0.05 at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively). Soil water content and air temperature had no influence on radial stem increment. Culmination of radial stem growth was detected at both study plots around mid-May, prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions, i.e. an increase in precipitation during summer. We suggest that the early decrease in radial growth rate is due to a high belowground demand for carbohydrates to ensure adequate resource acquisition on the drought prone substrate.
PMCID: PMC3191526  PMID: 22003269
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
3.  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
4.  Xylem and phloem phenology in co-occurring conifers exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2014;28(4):1161-1171.
Key message
Variability in xylem and phloem phenology among years and species is caused by contrasting temperatures prevailing at the start of the growing season and species-specific sensitivity to drought.
The focus of this study was to determine temporal dynamics of xylem and phloem formation in co-occurring deciduous and evergreen coniferous species in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria). By repeated micro-sampling of the stem, timing of key phenological dates of xylem and phloem formation was compared among mature Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies during two consecutive years. Xylem formation in P. sylvestris started in mid and late April 2011 and 2012, respectively, and in both years about 2 week later in P. abies and L. decidua. Phloem formation preceded xylem formation on average by 3 week in P. sylvestris, and c. 5 week in P. abies and L. decidua. Based on modeled cell number increase, tracheid production peaked between early through late May 2011 and late May through mid-June 2012. Phloem formation culminated between late April and mid-May in 2011 and in late May 2012. Production of xylem and phloem cells continued for about 4 and 5–6 months, respectively. High variability in xylem increment among years and species is related to exogenous control by climatic factors and species-specific sensitivity to drought, respectively. On the other hand, production of phloem cells was quite homogenous and showed asymptotic decrease with respect to xylem cells indicating endogenous control. Results indicate that onset and culmination of xylem and phloem formation are controlled by early spring temperature, whereby strikingly advanced production of phloem compared to xylem cells suggests lower temperature requirement for initiation of the former.
PMCID: PMC4110670  PMID: 25071313
Cambium; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth; Phloem formation; Xylogenesis
5.  Xylem and phloem phenology in co-occurring conifers exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2014;28(4):1161-1171.
The focus of this study was to determine temporal dynamics of xylem and phloem formation in co-occurring deciduous and evergreen coniferous species in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria). By repeated micro-sampling of the stem, timing of key phenological dates of xylem and phloem formation was compared among mature Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies during two consecutive years. Xylem formation in P. sylvestris started in mid and late April 2011 and 2012, respectively, and in both years about 2 week later in P. abies and L. decidua. Phloem formation preceded xylem formation on average by 3 week in P. sylvestris, and c. 5 week in P. abies and L. decidua. Based on modeled cell number increase, tracheid production peaked between early through late May 2011 and late May through mid-June 2012. Phloem formation culminated between late April and mid-May in 2011 and in late May 2012. Production of xylem and phloem cells continued for about 4 and 5–6 months, respectively. High variability in xylem increment among years and species is related to exogenous control by climatic factors and species-specific sensitivity to drought, respectively. On the other hand, production of phloem cells was quite homogenous and showed asymptotic decrease with respect to xylem cells indicating endogenous control. Results indicate that onset and culmination of xylem and phloem formation are controlled by early spring temperature, whereby strikingly advanced production of phloem compared to xylem cells suggests lower temperature requirement for initiation of the former.
PMCID: PMC4110670  PMID: 25071313
Cambium; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth; Phloem formation; Xylogenesis
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Vulnerability to cavitation, hydraulic efficiency, growth and survival in an insular pine (Pinus canariensis) 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(6):1167-1179.
Background and Aims
It is widely accepted that hydraulic failure due to xylem embolism is a key factor contributing to drought-induced mortality in trees. In the present study, an attempt is made to disentangle phenotypic plasticity from genetic variation in hydraulic traits across the entire distribution area of a tree species to detect adaptation to local environments.
A series of traits related to hydraulics (vulnerability to cavitation and hydraulic conductivity in branches), growth performance and leaf mass per area were assessed in eight Pinus canariensis populations growing in two common gardens under contrasting environments. In addition, the neutral genetic variability (FST) and the genetic differentiation of phenotypic variation (QST) were compared in order to identify the evolutionary forces acting on these traits.
Key Results
The variability for hydraulic traits was largely due to phenotypic plasticity. Nevertheless, the vulnerability to cavitation displayed a significant genetic variability (approx. 5 % of the explained variation), and a significant genetic × environment interaction (between 5 and 19 % of the explained variation). The strong correlation between vulnerability to cavitation and survival in the xeric common garden (r = –0·81; P < 0·05) suggests a role for the former in the adaptation to xeric environments. Populations from drier sites and higher temperature seasonality were less vulnerable to cavitation than those growing at mesic sites. No trade-off between xylem safety and efficiency was detected. QST of parameters of the vulnerability curve (0·365 for P50 and the slope of the vulnerability curve and 0·452 for P88) differed substantially from FST (0·091), indicating divergent selection. In contrast, genetic drift alone was found to be sufficient to explain patterns of differentiation for xylem efficiency and growth.
The ability of P. canariensis to inhabit a wide range of ecosystems seemed to be associated with high phenotypic plasticity and some degree of local adaptations of xylem and leaf traits. Resistance to cavitation conferred adaptive potential for this species to adapt successfully to xeric conditions.
PMCID: PMC3662524  PMID: 23644361
vulnerability to cavitation; Pinus canariensis; common garden; drought; genetic differentiation; hydraulic conductivity; phenotypic plasticity; fitness; selection; trade-off
10.  Temporal dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates and xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought 
Wood formation requires a continuous supply of carbohydrates for structural growth and metabolism. In the montane belt of the central Austrian Alps we monitored the temporal dynamics of xylem growth and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in stem sapwood of Pinus sylvestris L. during the growing season 2009, which was characterized by exceptional soil dryness within the study area. Soil water content dropped below 10 % at the time of maximum xylem growth end of May. Histological analyses have been used to describe cambial activity and xylem growth. Determination of NSC was performed using specific enzymatic assays revealing that total NSC ranged from 0.8 to 1.7 % dry matter throughout the year. Significant variations (P < 0.05) of the size of the NSC pool were observed during the growing season. Starch showed persistent abundance throughout the year reaching a maximum shortly before onset of late wood formation in mid-July. Seasonal dynamics of NSC and xylem growth suggest that (i) high sink activity occurred at start of the growing season in spring and during late wood formation in summer and (ii) there was no particular shortage in NSC, which caused P. sylvestris to draw upon stem reserves more heavily during drought in 2009.
PMCID: PMC3191854  PMID: 22003262
11.  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
12.  Temporal dynamic of wood formation in Pinus cembra along the alpine treeline ecotone and the effect of climate variables 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2009;23(3):623-635.
We determined the temporal dynamic of cambial activity and xylem development of stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) throughout the treeline ecotone. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring was carried out during the growing seasons 2006 and 2007 at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.), treeline (2110 m a.s.l.) and within the krummholz belt (2180 m a.s.l.) and the influence of climate variables on intra-annual wood formation was determined.
At the beginning of both growing seasons, highest numbers of cambial and enlarging cells were observed at the treeline. Soil temperatures at time of initiation of cambial activity were c. 1.5 °C higher at treeline (open canopy) compared to timberline (closed canopy), suggesting that a threshold root-zone temperature is involved in triggering onset of above ground stem growth.
The rate of xylem cell production determined in two weekly intervals during June through August 2006-2007 was significantly correlated with air temperature (temperature sums expressed as degree-days and mean daily maximum temperature) at the timberline only. Lack of significant relationships between tracheid production and temperature variables at the treeline and within the krummholz belt support past dendroclimatological studies that more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., wind exposure, frost desiccation, late frost) increasingly control tree growth above timberline.
Results of this study revealed that spatial and temporal (i.e. year-to-year) variability in timing and dynamic of wood formation of Pinus cembra is strongly influenced by local site factors within the treeline ecotone and the dynamics of seasonal temperature variation, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3078619  PMID: 21509148
Cambium; intra-annual growth; Pinus cembra; temperature; tracheid production
13.  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
14.  Cambial Activity and Intra-annual Xylem Formation in Roots and Stems of Abies balsamea and Picea mariana 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(5):667-674.
Background and Aims
Studies on xylogenesis focus essentially on the stem, whereas there is basically no information about the intra-annual growth of other parts of the tree. As roots strongly influence carbon allocation and tree development, knowledge of the dynamics of xylem production and maturation in roots at a short time scale is required for a better understanding of the phenomenon of tree growth. This study compared cambial activity and xylem formation in stem and roots in two conifers of the boreal forest in Canada.
Wood microcores were collected weekly in stem and roots of ten Abies balsamea and ten Picea mariana during the 2004–2006 growing seasons. Cross-sections were cut using a rotary microtome, stained with cresyl violet acetate and observed under visible and polarized light. The number of cells in the cambial zone and in differentiation, plus the number of mature cells, was counted along the developing xylem.
Key Results
Xylem formation lasted from the end of May to the end of September, with no difference between stem and roots in 2004–2005. On the contrary, in 2006 a 1-week earlier beginning of cell differentiation was observed in the stem, with cell wall thickening and lignification in roots ending up to 22 d later than in the stem. Cell production in the stem was concentrated early in the season, in June, while most cell divisions in roots occurred 1 month later.
The intra-annual dynamics of growth observed in stem and roots could be related to the different amount of cells produced by the cambium and the patterns of air and soil temperature occurring in spring.
PMCID: PMC2712372  PMID: 18708643
Abies balsamea; boreal forest; cambium; cell differentiation; cell wall thickening; lignification; Picea mariana; root; stem; xylem
15.  Duration of xylogenesis in black spruce lengthened between 1950 and 2010 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(6):1099-1108.
Background and Aims
Reconstructions have identified the 20th century as being uniquely warm in the last 1000 years. Changes in the phenology of primary meristems converged toward increases in length of the growing season. Has the phenology of secondary meristem changed during the last century, and to what extent?
Timings of wood formation in black spruce, Picea mariana, were monitored for 9 years on a weekly timescale at four sites in the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada. Models for assessing xylem phenology were defined and applied to reconstruct onset, ending and duration of xylogenesis between 1950 and 2010 using thermal thresholds on chronologies of maximum and minimum temperatures.
Key Results
All sites exhibited increasing trends of both annual and May–September temperatures, with the greatest changes observed at the higher latitudes. Phenological events in spring were more affected than those occurring in autumn, with cambial resumptions occurring 0·5–0·8 d decade−1 earlier. The duration of xylogenesis has lengthened significantly since 1950, although the models supplied wide ranges of variations, between 0·07 and 1·5 d decade−1, respectively.
The estimated changes in past cambial phenology demonstrated the marked effects of the recent increase in temperature on the phenological traits of secondary meristems. In the long run, the advancement of cambial activity could modify the short time window for growth of boreal species and dramatically affect the dynamics and productivity of trees in these temperature-limited ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3478046  PMID: 23041380
boreal forest; cell differentiation; Picea mariana; threshold temperature; wood formation; xylogenesis
16.  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
17.  Ecotypic variation of summer dormancy relaxation associated with rainfall gradient in the geophytic grass Poa bulbosa 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(4):617-625.
Background and Aims
Summer dormancy is an adaptive trait in geophytes inhabiting regions with a Mediterranean climate, allowing their survival through the hot and dry summers. Summer dormancy in Poa bulbosa is induced by increasing day-length and temperature and decreasing water availability during spring. Populations from arid habitats became dormant earlier than those from mesic habitats. Relaxation of dormancy was promoted by the hot, dry summer conditions. Here we test the hypothesis that dormancy relaxation is also delayed in ecotypes of P. bulbosa inhabiting arid regions, as a cautious strategy related to the greater unpredictability of autumn rains associated with decreasing precipitation.
Ecotypes collected across a precipitation gradient (100–1200 mm year−1) in the Mediterranean climate region were grown under similar conditions in a net-house in Israel. Differences among ecotypes in dormancy induction and dormancy relaxation were determined by measuring time to dormancy onset in spring, and time to sprouting after the first effective rain in autumn. Seasonal and ecotype variation in dormancy relaxation were assessed by measuring time to sprouting initiation, rate of sprouting and maximal sprouting of resting dry bulbs sampled in the net-house during late spring, and mid- and late summer, and planted in a wet substrate at temperatures promoting (10 °C) or limiting (20 °C) sprouting.
Key Results
Earlier dormancy in the spring and delayed sprouting in autumn were correlated with decreasing mean annual rainfall at the site of ecotype origin. Seasonal and ecotype differences in dormancy relaxation were expressed in bulbs planted at 20 °C. During the summer, time to sprouting decreased while rate of sprouting and maximal sprouting increased, indicating dormancy relaxation. Ecotypes from more arid sites across the rainfall gradient showed delayed onset of sprouting and lower maximal sprouting, but did not differ in rate of sprouting. Planting at 10 °C promoted sprouting and cancelled differences among ecotypes in dormancy relaxation.
Both the induction and the relaxation of summer dormancy in P. bulbosa are correlated with mean annual precipitation at the site of population origin. Ecotypes from arid habitats have earlier dormancy induction and delayed dormancy relaxation, compared with those from mesic habitats.
PMCID: PMC2850800  PMID: 20156924
Poa bulbosa; summer dormancy relaxation; ecotypic variation; rainfall gradient; geophytic grass
18.  Hydraulic disruption and passive migration by a bacterial pathogen in oak tree xylem 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2008;59(10):2649-2657.
Xylella fastidiosa (Xf) is a xylem-limited bacterial pathogen that causes leaf scorch symptoms in numerous plant species in urban, agricultural, and natural ecosystems worldwide. The exact mechanism of hydraulic disruption and systemic colonization of xylem by Xf remains elusive across all host plants. To understand both processes better, the functional and structural characteristics of xylem in different organs of both healthy and Xf-infected trees of several Quercus species were studied. Hydraulic conductivity (Ks) in Xf-infected petioles of Q. palustris and Q. rubra decreased significantly compared with healthy trees as the season progressed and plummeted to zero with the onset of scorch symptoms. Prior to the onset of symptoms, embolism was as much as 3.7 times higher in Xf-infected petioles compared with healthy controls and preceded significant reductions in Ks. Embolism likely resulted from pit membrane degradation during colonization of new petiole xylem and triggered the process that eventually led to vessel occlusion. Pit membrane porosity was studied using the following four methods to determine if a pathway exists in the xylem network of woody stems that allows for passive Xf migration: (i) calculations based on vulnerability to cavitation data, (ii) scanning electron micrographs, (iii) microsphere injections, and (iv) air seeding thresholds on individual vessels. All four methods consistently demonstrated that large pit membrane pores (i.e. greater than the diameter of individual Xf) occur frequently throughout the secondary stem xylem in several Quercus species. These large pores probably facilitate systemic colonization of the secondary xylem network and contribute to the high susceptibility to bacterial leaf scorch exhibited among these species.
PMCID: PMC2486461  PMID: 18487632
Cavitation; embolism; hydraulic conductivity; vascular pathogens; Xylella fastidiosa; xylem-limited bacteria
19.  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
20.  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
21.  Intraspecific Variation in Pinus Pinaster PSII Photochemical Efficiency in Response to Winter Stress and Freezing Temperatures 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28772.
As part of a program to select maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.) genotypes for resistance to low winter temperatures, we examined variation in photosystem II activity by chlorophyll fluorescence. Populations and families within populations from contrasting climates were tested during two consecutive winters through two progeny trials, one located at a continental and xeric site and one at a mesic site with Atlantic influence. We also obtained the LT50, or the temperature that causes 50% damage, by controlled freezing and the subsequent analysis of chlorophyll fluorescence in needles and stems that were collected from populations at the continental trial site.
P. pinaster showed sensitivity to winter stress at the continental site, during the colder winter. The combination of low temperatures, high solar irradiation and low precipitation caused sustained decreases in maximal photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm), quantum yield of non-cyclic electron transport (ΦPSII) and photochemical quenching (qP). The variation in photochemical parameters was larger among families than among populations, and population differences appeared only under the harshest conditions at the continental site. As expected, the environmental effects (winter and site) on the photochemical parameters were much larger than the genotypic effects (population or family). LT50 was closely related to the minimum winter temperatures of the population's range. The dark-adapted Fv/Fm ratio discriminated clearly between interior and coastal populations.
In conclusion, variations in Fv/Fm, ΦPSII, qP and non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) in response to winter stress were primarily due to the differences between the winter conditions and the sites and secondarily due to the differences among families and their interactions with the environment. Populations from continental climates showed higher frost tolerance (LT50) than coastal populations that typically experience mild winters. Therefore, LT50, as estimated by Fv/Fm, is a reliable indicator of frost tolerance among P. pinaster populations.
PMCID: PMC3248426  PMID: 22220195
22.  Static and dynamic bending has minor effects on xylem hydraulics of conifer branches (Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris) 
Plant, Cell & Environment  2014;37(9):2151-2157.
The xylem hydraulic efficiency and safety is usually measured on mechanically unstressed samples, although trees may be exposed to combined hydraulic and mechanical stress in the field. We analysed changes in hydraulic conductivity and vulnerability to drought-induced embolism during static bending of Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris branches as well as the effect of dynamic bending on the vulnerability. We hypothesized this mechanical stress to substantially impair xylem hydraulics. Intense static bending caused an only small decrease in hydraulic conductance (−19.5 ± 2.4% in P. abies) but no shift in vulnerability thresholds. Dynamic bending caused a 0.4 and 0.8 MPa decrease of the water potential at 50 and 88% loss of conductivity in P. sylvestris, but did not affect vulnerability thresholds in P. abies. With respect to applied extreme bending radii, effects on plant hydraulics were surprisingly small and are thus probably of minor eco-physiological importance. More importantly, results indicate that available xylem hydraulic analyses (of conifers) sufficiently reflect plant hydraulics under field conditions.
PMCID: PMC4312774  PMID: 24697679
hydraulic efficiency; hydraulics; hydraulic safety; mechanics; vulnerability to embolism
23.  Seasonal changes of whole root system conductance by a drought-tolerant grape root system 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;62(1):99-109.
The role of root systems in drought tolerance is a subject of very limited information compared with above-ground responses. Adjustments to the ability of roots to supply water relative to shoot transpiration demand is proposed as a major means for woody perennial plants to tolerate drought, and is often expressed as changes in the ratios of leaf to root area (AL:AR). Seasonal root proliferation in a directed manner could increase the water supply function of roots independent of total root area (AR) and represents a mechanism whereby water supply to demand could be increased. To address this issue, seasonal root proliferation, stomatal conductance (gs) and whole root system hydraulic conductance (kr) were investigated for a drought-tolerant grape root system (Vitis berlandieri×V. rupestris cv. 1103P) and a non-drought-tolerant root system (Vitis riparia×V. rupestris cv. 101-14Mgt), upon which had been grafted the same drought-sensitive clone of Vitis vinifera cv. Merlot. Leaf water potentials (ψL) for Merlot grafted onto the 1103P root system (–0.91±0.02 MPa) were +0.15 MPa higher than Merlot on 101-14Mgt (–1.06±0.03 MPa) during spring, but dropped by approximately –0.4 MPa from spring to autumn, and were significantly lower by –0.15 MPa (–1.43±0.02 MPa) than for Merlot on 101-14Mgt (at –1.28±0.02 MPa). Surprisingly, gs of Merlot on the drought-tolerant root system (1103P) was less down-regulated and canopies maintained evaporative fluxes ranging from 35–20 mmol vine−1 s−1 during the diurnal peak from spring to autumn, respectively, three times greater than those measured for Merlot on the drought-sensitive rootstock 101-14Mgt. The drought-tolerant root system grew more roots at depth during the warm summer dry period, and the whole root system conductance (kr) increased from 0.004 to 0.009 kg MPa−1 s−1 during that same time period. The changes in kr could not be explained by xylem anatomy or conductivity changes of individual root segments. Thus, the manner in which drought tolerance was conveyed to the drought-sensitive clone appeared to arise from deep root proliferation during the hottest and driest part of the season, rather than through changes in xylem structure, xylem density or stomatal regulation. This information can be useful to growers on a site-specific basis in selecting rootstocks for grape clonal material (scions) grafted to them.
PMCID: PMC2993904  PMID: 20851906
Drought tolerance; grape; root hydraulic conductance; root hydraulic conductivity; root water relations; stomatal conductance; Vitis vinifera
24.  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
25.  Cyclic Occurrence of Fire and Its Role in Carbon Dynamics along an Edaphic Moisture Gradient in Longleaf Pine Ecosystems 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54045.
Fire regulates the structure and function of savanna ecosystems, yet we lack understanding of how cyclic fire affects savanna carbon dynamics. Furthermore, it is largely unknown how predicted changes in climate may impact the interaction between fire and carbon cycling in these ecosystems. This study utilizes a novel combination of prescribed fire, eddy covariance (EC) and statistical techniques to investigate carbon dynamics in frequently burned longleaf pine savannas along a gradient of soil moisture availability (mesic, intermediate and xeric). This research approach allowed us to investigate the complex interactions between carbon exchange and cyclic fire along the ecological amplitude of longleaf pine. Over three years of EC measurement of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) show that the mesic site was a net carbon sink (NEE = −2.48 tonnes C ha−1), while intermediate and xeric sites were net carbon sources (NEE = 1.57 and 1.46 tonnes C ha−1, respectively), but when carbon losses due to fuel consumption were taken into account, all three sites were carbon sources (10.78, 7.95 and 9.69 tonnes C ha−1 at the mesic, intermediate and xeric sites, respectively). Nonetheless, rates of NEE returned to pre-fire levels 1–2 months following fire. Consumption of leaf area by prescribed fire was associated with reduction in NEE post-fire, and the system quickly recovered its carbon uptake capacity 30–60 days post fire. While losses due to fire affected carbon balances on short time scales (instantaneous to a few months), drought conditions over the final two years of the study were a more important driver of net carbon loss on yearly to multi-year time scales. However, longer-term observations over greater environmental variability and additional fire cycles would help to more precisely examine interactions between fire and climate and make future predictions about carbon dynamics in these systems.
PMCID: PMC3545999  PMID: 23335986

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