European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 137, Issue 6, pp 863–878 | Cite as

Scarce population genetic differentiation but substantial spatiotemporal phenotypic variation of water-use efficiency in Pinus sylvestris at its western distribution range

  • F. Santini
  • J. P. Ferrio
  • A.-M. Hereş
  • E. Notivol
  • M. Piqué
  • L. Serrano
  • T. A. Shestakova
  • E. Sin
  • P. Vericat
  • J. VoltasEmail author
Original Paper


Water and carbon fluxes in forests are largely related to leaf gas exchange physiology varying across spatiotemporal scales and modulated by plant responses to environmental cues. We quantified the relevance of genetic and phenotypic variation of intrinsic water-use efficiency (WUEi, ratio of net photosynthesis to stomatal conductance of water) in Pinus sylvestris L. growing in the Iberian Peninsula as inferred from tree-ring carbon isotopes. Inter-population genetic variation, evaluated in a provenance trial comprising Spanish and German populations, was low and relevant only at continental scale. In contrast, phenotypic variation, evaluated in natural stands (at spatial level) and by tree-ring chronologies (at temporal inter-annual level), was important and ten- and threefold larger than the population genetic variance, respectively. These results points to preponderance of plastic responses dominating variability in WUEi for this species. Spatial phenotypic variation in WUEi correlated negatively with soil depth (r = − 0.66; p < 0.01), while temporal phenotypic variation was mainly driven by summer precipitation. At the spatial level, WUEi could be scaled-up to ecosystem-level WUE derived from remote sensing data by accounting for soil water-holding capacity (r = 0.63; p < 0.01). This outcome demonstrates a direct influence of the variation of leaf-level WUEi on ecosystem water and carbon balance differentiation. Our findings highlight the contrasting importance of genetic variation (negligible) and plastic responses in WUEi (large, with changes of up to 33% among sites) on determining carbon and water budgets at stand and ecosystem scales in a widespread conifer such as Pinus sylvestris.


Genetic variation Phenotypic plasticity Pinus sylvestris Remote sensing Tree rings Intrinsic water-use efficiency 



This work was supported by the Spanish Government [MINECO Grant Number AGL2015-68274-C3-3-R] and the Russian Science Foundation (Project Number 14-14-00219-P, mathematical approach). We acknowledge P. Sopeña and M.J. Pau for technical assistance and V. Muñoz, M. Sala and A. Teixidó for field sampling.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10342_2018_1145_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Online Resource 1 Characteristics of the 22 Scots pine populations evaluated in the provenance trial (XLSX 14 kb)
10342_2018_1145_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (17 kb)
Online Resource 2 Characteristics of the 30 Scots pine natural stands (XLSX 16 kb)
10342_2018_1145_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (231 kb)
Online Resource 3 Normal quantile plots of the ANOVAs residuals (PDF 231 kb)
10342_2018_1145_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (14 kb)
Online Resource 4 Pearson correlations between WUEi or TRW and climatic, edaphic and physiographic characteristics of the 30 Scots pine natural stands (XLSX 14 kb)
10342_2018_1145_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (380 kb)
Online Resource 5 WUEi and TRW chronologies (PDF 380 kb)
10342_2018_1145_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Online Resource 6 Variance components estimated for absolute TRW and for WUEi obtained from annually resolved Ca values (XLSX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop and Forest Sciences – AGROTECNIO CenterETSEA-University of LleidaLleidaSpain
  2. 2.Aragon Agency for Research and Development (ARAID)SaragossaSpain
  3. 3.Forest Resources UnitAgrifood Research and Technology Centre of Aragón (CITA)ZaragozaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Forest SciencesTransilvania University of BrasovBrasovRomania
  5. 5.BC3 - Basque Centre for Climate ChangeScientific Campus of the University of the Basque CountryLeioaSpain
  6. 6.Sustainable Forest Management UnitForest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC)SolsonaSpain
  7. 7.Mathematical Methods and IT Department, Siberian Federal UniversityKrasnoyarskRussia

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