Environmental effects on growth phenology of co-occurring Eucalyptus species
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- Rawal, D.S., Kasel, S., Keatley, M.R. et al. Int J Biometeorol (2014) 58: 427. doi:10.1007/s00484-013-0756-6
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Growth is one of the most important phenological cycles in a plant’s life. Higher growth rates increase the competitive ability, survival and recruitment and can provide a measure of a plant’s adaptive capacity to climate variability and change. This study identified the growth relationship of six Eucalyptus species to variations in temperature, soil moisture availability, photoperiod length and air humidity over 12 months. The six species represent two naturally co-occurring groups of three species each representing warm-dry and the cool-moist sclerophyll forests, respectively. Warm-dry eucalypts were found to be more tolerant of higher temperatures and lower air humidity than the cool-moist eucalypts. Within groups, species-specific responses were detected with Eucalyptus microcarpa having the widest phenological niche of the warm-dry species, exhibiting greater resistance to high temperature and lower air humidity. Temperature dependent photoperiodic responses were exhibited by all the species except Eucalyptus tricarpa and Eucalyptus sieberi, which were able to maintain growth as photoperiod shortened but temperature requirements were fulfilled. Eucalyptus obliqua exhibited a flexible growth rate and tolerance to moisture limitation which enables it to maintain its growth rate as water availability changes. The wider temperature niche exhibited by E. sieberi compared with E. obliqua and Eucalyptus radiata may improve its competitive ability over these species where winters are warm and moisture does not limit growth. With climate change expected to result in warmer and drier conditions in south-east Australia, the findings of this study suggest all cool-moist species will likely suffer negative effects on growth while the warm-dry species may still maintain current growth rates. Our findings highlight that climate driven shifts in growth phenology will likely occur as climate changes and this may facilitate changes in tree communities by altering inter-specific competition.