Oecologia

, Volume 172, Issue 2, pp 317–326 | Cite as

Water flux of Eucalyptus regnans: defying summer drought and a record heatwave in 2009

Physiological ecology - Original research

Abstract

Making predictions as to how heatwaves will affect forests in the future is a major challenge in ecosystem science, not the least because we have few documented examples of how they respond now. We captured the effects of drought and a record-breaking heatwave on whole-tree water use (Q) in Eucalyptus regnans during the summer drought of 2008/2009 in southeastern Australia. While air temperatures steadily increased, average maximum sap flow (JSmax) declined with progression of the drought prior to the heatwave. In the period approaching the heatwave, Q during daytime (Qd) steadily declined, while nighttime Q (Qn) increased. This pattern was particularly pronounced during nights that followed hot days (>32 °C) where Qn was frequently 20–30 % of Qd. We found clear trends in the relation of Qd to Qn that point to the increasing importance of refilling depleted stem water stores following hot days. On the day the heatwave climaxed (7 February 2009), sap flow (JS) was dramatically low, and declined as weather conditions became increasingly arid (air temperature > 42 °C, vapor pressure deficit >7 kPa). Almost immediately after the heatwave passed JS resumed its common diurnal hysteresis, albeit at slightly slower rates. In the context of prognosticated effects of future climate, our data highlight that depletion and refill of stored water in E. regnans are likely important features for the tree to endure drought- and heat-related climatic extremes. We suggest that elucidating the peculiarity of capacitance and defining its threshold for keystone tree species, such as E. regnans, can add to our understanding of how climatic extremes may affect forests.

Keywords

Australia Black Saturday Capacitance Climate extreme Sap flow 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Michael Kemp and Chris Weston for practical help in the field and Tina Bell, Mark Tjoelker, Craig Macfarlane and several anonymous reviewers for valuable discussions on the draft manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Agriculture and EnvironmentUniversity of SydneyEveleighAustralia
  2. 2.Bushfire Cooperative Research CentreEast MelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Hawkesbury Institute for the EnvironmentUniversity of Western SydneyPenrithAustralia

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