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Trees

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1035–1051 | Cite as

Unthinned slow-growing ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) trees contain muted isotopic signals in tree rings as compared to thinned trees

  • Julia A. Sohn
  • J. Renée Brooks
  • Jürgen Bauhus
  • Martin Kohler
  • Thomas E. Kolb
  • Nathan G. McDowell
Original Paper

Abstract

Key message

The muted wood isotopic signal in slow-growing trees of unthinned stands indicates lower responsiveness to changing environmental conditions compared to fast-growing trees in thinned stands.

Abstract

To examine the physiological processes associated with higher growth rates after thinning, we analyzed the oxygen isotopic values in wood (δ18Ow) of 12 ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) trees from control, moderately, and heavily thinned stands and compared them with wood-based estimates of carbon isotope discrimination (∆13C), basal area increment (BAI), and gas exchange. We found that (heavy) thinning led to shifts and increased inter-annual variability of both stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios relative to the control throughout the first post-thinning decade. Results of a sensitivity analysis suggested that both an increase in stomatal conductance (g s) and differences in source water among treatments are equally probable causes of the δ18Ow shift in heavily thinned stands. We modeled inter-annual changes in δ18Ow of trees from all treatments using environmental and physiological data and found that the significant increase in δ18Ow inter-annual variance was related to greater δ18Ow responsiveness to changing environmental conditions for trees in thinned stands when compared to control stands. Based on model results, the more muted climatic response of wood isotopes in slow-growing control trees is likely to be the consequence of reduced carbon sink strength causing a higher degree of mixing of previously stored and fresh assimilates when compared to faster-growing trees in thinned stands. Alternatively, the muted response of δ18Ow to climatic variation of trees in the control stand may result from little variation in the control stand in physiological processes (photosynthesis, transpiration) that are known to affect δ18Ow.

Keywords

Oxygen isotopes Thinning Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine) Gas exchange Sensitivity analysis 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (BA 2821/11-1), the Landesgraduiertenförderung Baden-Württemberg, the graduate school “Environment, Society and Global Change” at Freiburg University, and the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Freiburg for their financial support. Many thanks also to Dr. Bernd Kammerer and Erika Fischer of the Center for Biological Systems Analysis (ZBSA) in Freiburg for their help with stable isotope analysis. This manuscript has been subjected to the Environmental Protection Agency’s peer and administrative review, and it has been approved for publication as an EPA document. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. This project was also supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research. We thank Lucy Kerhoulas from NAU who assembled and kindly provided the climatic data used in this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia A. Sohn
    • 1
  • J. Renée Brooks
    • 2
  • Jürgen Bauhus
    • 1
  • Martin Kohler
    • 1
  • Thomas E. Kolb
    • 3
  • Nathan G. McDowell
    • 4
  1. 1.Chair of Silviculture, Faculty of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNational Health and Environmental Effects Research LaboratoryCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.School of ForestryNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  4. 4.Earth and Environmental Sciences DivisionLos Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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