Response of Quercus pyrenaica (melojo oak) to soil water deficit: a case study in Spain
In the present study, carried out from 2004 to 2006, leaf and stem water potential and stem water content were measured in Quercus pyrenaica Willd. individuals in an experimental forested catchment located in Central Western Spain under Mediterranean subhumid conditions. These indicators of tree water status were compared with soil moisture contents measured in the same area from 0 to 1 m depth and from 0 to 2.5 m depth during the last year of the study. The objectives were to clarify the seasonal and year-to-year variations in tree water status, to examine applicability of stem water content as useful water stress indicator and to discuss how deep soil water and root uptake contribute to survival during the long dry summer. Seasonal variations in the tree variables measured revealed a typical pattern, with maximum values at the end of spring followed by a progressive decline during the summer drought in response to the decrease in soil water content (almost exhausted at 0–100 cm depth). The relatively high values and the non-significant variation in predawn leaf water potentials (except for 2005, which was exceptionally dry) indicate that no clear water stress situations occurred. This may be explained in terms of a progressive absorption of water from the deeper layers. The results also suggest that the stem water content is a more sensitive indicator of long-term water limitation than the other variables measured.
KeywordsLeaf water potential Mediterranean oaks Soil water content Stem water content Stem water potential
This study was fully supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (REN2003–00381 Project) and the Spanish Ministry of Environment (RESEL Project). The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees for their useful comments on the manuscript.
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