Declining hydraulic performances and low carbon investments in tree rings predate Scots pine drought-induced mortality
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The retrospective analysis of wood anatomical features evidences how a long-term deterioration of hydraulic performance and carbon use portend drought-induced mortality in Scots pine.
Widespread episodes of drought-induced tree mortality are predicted to become more frequent as climate becomes warmer and drier. Nevertheless, growth trends and their links to changes in wood anatomy before tree dies are still poorly understood. Wood anatomical features provide valuable information that can be extracted to infer the mechanisms leading to tree death. In this study, we characterize drought-induced mortality affecting two Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) sites (Prades and Arcalís) located in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula. Co-occurring now-dead and living Scots pine trees were sampled and their wood anatomical features were measured and compared. We aimed to detect differences in anatomical features between living and dead trees, and to infer past physiological performances that might have determined their subsequent death or survival. Now-dead trees showed lower tracheid and resin duct production, and smaller radial lumen diameters than co-occurring living trees. At the more xeric Prades site, these anatomical differences were larger and chronic, i.e. were observed over the three studied decades, whilst they were less pronounced at the other, more mesic Arcalís site, where tree mortality episodes were more recent. This indicates that dead trees’ hydraulic conductivity was severely affected and that carbon investment in xylem formation and resin duct production was constrained prior to tree death. Our findings show that both hydraulic deterioration and low carbon allocation to xylem formation were associated to drought-induced mortality in Scots pine. Nevertheless, the temporal dynamics of these processes differed between populations as a function of site climatic conditions.
KeywordsScots pine Mortality Drought Tree ring Tracheid Wood anatomy
The authors thank H.A. Chaparro, A.Q. Alla, E. Pasho and M.C. Sancho for laboratory assistance. We also thank Debora Gil, who wrote all the Matlab codes for DACiA development. We are indebted to M. Mencuccini for field work and valuable discussions. The authors are also thankful to M. Ninyerola and the Catalan Meteorological Service for providing the two climatic datasets used in this study. Special thanks to M. Mejia-Chang for being part of our lives and a great inspiration for us all. This research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (projects CGL2007-60120, CSD2008-0040, CGL2010-16373, CGL2011-26654), a FPU PhD scholarship and a short stay at the IPE (CSIC).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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