, Volume 188, Issue 3, pp 695–705 | Cite as

Tree growth and water-use in hyper-arid Acacia occurs during the hottest and driest season

  • Gidon Winters
  • Dennis Otieno
  • Shabtai Cohen
  • Christina Bogner
  • Gideon Ragowloski
  • Indira Paudel
  • Tamir KleinEmail author
Physiological ecology - original research


Drought-induced tree mortality has been recently increasing and is expected to increase further under warming climate. Conversely, tree species that survive under arid conditions might provide vital information on successful drought resistance strategies. Although Acacia (Vachellia) species dominate many of the globe’s deserts, little is known about their growth dynamics and water-use in situ. Stem diameter dynamics, leaf phenology, and sap flow were monitored during 3 consecutive years in five Acacia raddiana trees and five Acacia tortilis trees in the Arid Arava Valley, southern Israel (annual precipitation 20–70 mm, restricted to October–May). We hypothesized that stem growth and other tree activities are synchronized with, and limited to single rainfall or flashflood events. Unexpectedly, cambial growth of both Acacia species was arrested during the wet season, and occurred during most of the dry season, coinciding with maximum daily temperatures as high as 45 °C and vapor pressure deficit of up to 9 kPa. Summer growth was correlated with peak sap flow in June, with almost year-round activity and foliage cover. To the best of our knowledge, these are the harshest drought conditions ever documented permitting cambial growth. These findings point to the possibility that summer cambial growth in Acacia under hyper-arid conditions relies on concurrent leaf gas exchange, which is in turn permitted by access to deep soil water. Soil water can support low-density tree populations despite heat and drought, as long as recharge is kept above a minimum threshold.


Acacia raddiana Acacia tortilis Leaf phenology Sap flow Desert Global warming Tree drought resistance Arava 



We thank Victor Lukyanov (ARO Volcani Center, Israel) for technical assistance in the field. TK wishes to thank the Benoziyo Fund for the Advancement of Science; Mr. and Mrs. Norman Reiser, together with the Weizmann Center for New Scientists; the Edith and Nathan Goldberg Career Development Chair. CB and DO thank the Bayrische Forschungs (BayFor) Alianz, Germany, for supporting the visits to the Arava. GW thanks the Arava Drainage Authority and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) for their continued support. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers and to the editor, Russel K. Monson, for their helpful comments and suggestions which significantly improved the MS.

Author contribution statement

GW initiated the study in 2013, with monitoring operated together with GR. DO, SC, and TK joined the study in 2015, with YW, IR, IP, and CB joining in 2016. TK started the analysis and manuscript drafting, with contributions from all authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2018_4250_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (1.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 1439 kb)

Video S1. “A year in the life of Acacia tortilis”, A lapse-rate video (MP4 66073 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gidon Winters
    • 1
  • Dennis Otieno
    • 2
  • Shabtai Cohen
    • 3
  • Christina Bogner
    • 4
  • Gideon Ragowloski
    • 1
  • Indira Paudel
    • 5
  • Tamir Klein
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.The Dead Sea-Arava Science Center, Tamar Regional CouncilNeve ZoharIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesJaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and TechnologyBondoKenya
  3. 3.Institute of Soil, Water, and Environmental SciencesAgricultural Research OrganizationRishon LeZionIsrael
  4. 4.Ecological Modelling, BayCEERUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  5. 5.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesWeizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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