Original Paper


, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 759-769

First online:

Climate-related variability in carbon and oxygen stable isotopes among populations of Aleppo pine grown in common-garden tests

  • Jordi VoltasAffiliated withDepartment of Crop and Forest Sciences, University of Lleida Email author 
  • , María Regina ChambelAffiliated withInstituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA)
  • , María Aránzazu PradaAffiliated withBanc de Llavors Forestals, Dirección General de Gestión del Medio Natural
  • , Juan Pedro FerrioAffiliated withDepartment of Crop and Forest Sciences, University of LleidaChair of Tree Physiology, University of Freiburg

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The Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis Mill.) is found in the Mediterranean under a broad range of moisture and thermal conditions. Differences in severity and duration of water stress among native habitats may act as selective forces shaping the populations’ genetic make-up in terms of contrasting drought strategies. We hypothesised that these strategies should translate into intraspecific variation in carbon isotope composition (δ13C, surrogate of intrinsic water-use efficiency, WUEi) of wood holocellulose, and such variation might be linked to changes in oxygen isotope composition (δ18O, proxy of stomatal conductance) and to some climatic features at origin. Thus, we evaluated δ13C, δ18O, growth and survival for 25 Aleppo pine populations covering its geographic range and grown in two common-garden tests. We found intraspecific variability for δ13C and growth, with high-WUEi populations (which showed 18O-enriched holocellulose) having low growth. These results suggest stomatal regulation as common control for δ13C and productivity. We also detected sizeable relationships between δ13C and climate factors related to the magnitude and timing of drought such as the ratio of summer to annual rainfall. The main climate variable associated with δ18O was minimum temperature, but only in the coldest trial, suggesting differences in growth rhythms among sources. Overall, slow growing populations from highly-seasonal dry areas of the western Mediterranean exhibited a conservative water-use, as opposed to fast growing sources from the northernmost distribution range. The particular behaviour of the Mediterranean Aleppo pine as compared with other conifers demonstrates different selective roles of climate variables in determining intraspecific fitness.


Water-use efficiency Adaptation to drought Growth Pinus halepensis Mediterranean conifers