, Volume 372, Issue 1-2, pp 567-579

Tree-ring wood anatomy and stable isotopes show structural and functional adjustments in olive trees under different water availability

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Background and Aims

Olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is a drought-tolerant tree species cultivated in Mediterranean-type environments. Although it is tolerant to drought, dry conditions decrease its productivity. A thorough analysis of the hydraulic architecture and wood anatomical plasticity, as well as of their physiological significance, is needed to understand how olive trees will adapt to the predicted increase in frequency and severity of drought in the Mediterranean region.


Dendrochronological, stable isotopic (δ13C, δ18O) and wood anatomical analyses were applied to understand how different water availability can affect wood stem structure and function, in rainfed and irrigated at 100 % of crop evapotranspiration (ETc) olive trees in an experimental orchard close to Benevento (Italy) from 1992 to 2009.


Dendrochronological data indicate that cross-dating and synchronization of ring-width time series in olive tree is possible. After the start of irrigation, significantly more negative δ13C and lower δ18O values were recorded in irrigated trees indicating higher stomatal conductance and transpiration rates. Increased water balance induced the formation of a higher number of vessels with higher diameter.


Water balance variations affected wood anatomy and isotopic composition. Anatomical analyses detected structural and functional adjustments in rainfed trees that produced more vessels with lower diameter to prevent cavitation. Isotopic analyses confirmed that irrigated trees continuously showed enhanced transpiration rates.

Responsible Editor: Rafael S. Oliveira.