Tree ring isotopic composition, radial increment and height growth reveal provenance-specific reactions of Douglas-fir towards environmental parameters
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In the search of timber species being tolerant towards summer droughts, which are expected to be more frequent in future, Douglas-fir is often discussed as a potential alternative for spruce in Central Europe. To assess physiological and growth reactions of Douglas-fir provenances towards climate- and weather-related environmental conditions we took advantage of a provenance trial with three sites in south-western Germany located along an elevation gradient. We examined six different provenances of Douglas-fir from North America for oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotope composition in tree rings as well as for radial increment for a 7 year period and long-term height growth. Our results show that different Douglas-fir provenances clearly vary in their drought sensitivity at the driest and warmest site in the valley as shown by the radial growth decline in the extreme dry and hot year 2003. The growth decline in the provenances Pamelia Creek, Cameron Lake, Duncan Paldi and Conrad Creek could be clearly attributed to a reduction in stomatal conductance as assessed by the relations between δ18O and δ13C in the tree rings. These responses were not related to the long-term average climate at the places of origin of the provenances and the provenances with the lowest long-term (height) growth potential were the ones least affected in radial increment by the extreme drought of 2003. When selecting suitable Douglas-fir provenances, which are adapted to the climatic conditions projected for the future we thus might need to take into account the trade-off between the adaptation to extreme drought periods and the long-term growth performance. Site-specific evaluations of the probability of extreme drought events are thus needed to select the appropriate provenances.