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Intra-annual wood density fluctuations and tree-ring width patterns are sex- and site-dependent in the dioecious conifer Juniperus thurifera L.

Abstract

Key message

Sex and site conditions modulate intra- and inter-annual secondary growth and its climatic sensitivity in a dioecious Mediterranean conifer.

Abstract

Divergent evolutionary pressures associated with differential reproductive costs in dioecious trees may lead to sex-related variation in non-reproductive functions. Sex-related differences may be site-dependent, with different outcomes depending on environmental conditions. We explored the effects of sex and environmental conditions on the climatic control of annual secondary growth and intra-annual wood density fluctuations (IADF) of a dioecious conifer (Juniperus thurifera L.) growing in two sites with contrasting hydrological conditions under a continental Mediterranean climate. Different sex-related strategies had variable effects on relative secondary growth, with females outperforming males under more favorable hydrological conditions, and males outperforming females under water-limited conditions. Ring width and IADF formation were driven by climatic factors occurring at different temporal scales. Tree-ring growth depended on factors acting prior to the initiation of the xylogenesis and to conditions directly affecting the duration and pace of cambial activity, and ring width, therefore, integrated a complex signal of factors occurring over a relatively long period, and on an annual cycle. In contrast, IADFs responded to singular short-term events that alleviated drought and promoted cambial reactivation during the summer arrest. Female trees showed a more opportunistic water use, displayed in the stronger ring-width response to June–July conditions. Enhanced cambial sensitivity in females set a lower threshold for IADF occurrence, leading to a higher frequency of IADFs irrespective of site. Intra-annual and inter-annual female growth patterns reflect an opportunistic strategy to benefit from favorable climatic windows.

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Author contribution statement

AA, AIGC and JMO designed and executed the sampling. JMO and AIGC analyzed the data. JMO wrote the first draft that was worked during several rounds with VR, AIGC and AA.

Acknowledgments

We are especially grateful to Gonzalo Juste for his invaluable labor with laboratory tasks and chronologies development. Sergio Vicente provided access and assessment about best climatic data available. We thank David Brown for English language advice. This work was supported by a FPI-EHU grant to A. A., a FPI-MICINN grant to A. I. G.-C. and project CGL2012-34209 (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity).

Conflict of interest

Authors acknowledge no conflict of interests.

Author information

Correspondence to José Miguel Olano.

Additional information

Communicated by Y. Sano.

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Olano, J.M., García-Cervigón, A.I., Arzac, A. et al. Intra-annual wood density fluctuations and tree-ring width patterns are sex- and site-dependent in the dioecious conifer Juniperus thurifera L.. Trees 29, 1341–1353 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-015-1212-5

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Keywords

  • Dendroecology
  • Dioecy
  • IADF
  • Juniperus thurifera
  • Mediterranean climate