Connected root systems reduced the negative impact of August temperatures and insect outbreak on growth.
Root connections between trees can be an ecological advantage of clonal plant species in environments with unevenly distributed resources. We investigated the effects of root connectivity in stands of balsam poplar in Quebec (Canada). We evaluated differences in growth response between groups of trees with and without root connections through climate-growth analyses, comparison of the growth dynamics, and analysis of growth response to a severe forest tent caterpillar (FTC) outbreak. Current May temperature had a positive influence on radial growth of both connected and non-connected trees. Growth of non-connected trees was negatively affected by August temperatures (r = −0.3) while connected trees did not reveal a significant relationship for that month. A mixed effect ANOVA showed a significant difference (F 1, 25 = 5.59, p = 0.02) in growth responses to FTC outbreak between connected and non-connected trees. Connected trees grew on average 16 % better than unconnected trees during the outbreak, with bootstrapped 95 % confidence range from 2.28 to 31.36 %. The study suggests a sharing of resources through root connections, affecting radial growth of connected balsam poplar trees under both average and extreme environmental conditions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adonsou KE, DesRochers A, Tremblay F (2016) Physiological integration of connected balsam poplar ramets. Tree Physiol. doi:10.1093/treephys/tpv142
Baret M, DesRochers A (2011) Root connections can trigger physiological responses to defoliation in nondefoliated aspen suckers. Botany 89:753–761
Barnes BV (1966) The clonal growth habit of American aspens. Ecology 47:439-447
Basnet K, Scatena FN, Likens GE, Lugo AE (1993) Ecological consequences of root grafting in tabonuco (Dacryodes excelsa) trees in the Luquillo experimental forest, Puerto Rico. Biotropica 25:28–35
Blais J (1962) Collection and analysis of radial-growth data from trees for evidence of past spruce budworm outbreaks. The Forestry Chronicle 38:474–484
Boer G, Flato G, Ramsden D (2000) A transient climate change simulation with greenhouse gas and aerosol forcing: projected climate to the twenty-first century. Clim Dyn 16:427–450
Brandt JP (1995) Forest Insect-and Disease-caused Impacts to Timber Resources of West-central Canada, 1988–1992. Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre
Bunn AG (2010) Statistical and visual crossdating in R using the dplR library. Dendrochronologia 28:251–258
Canty AJ (2002) Resampling methods in R: the boot package. R News 2:2–7
Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (1990) Methods of dendrochronology: applications in the environmental sciences. Springer Science & Business Media, Berlin
DeByle N (1964) Detection of functional intraclonal aspen root connections by tracers and excavation. Forest Science 10:386–396
DesRochers A, Lieffers VJ (2001) The coarse-root system of mature Populus tremuloides in declining stands in Alberta, Canada. J Veg Sci 12:355–360
Drobyshev I, Gewehr S, Berninger F, Bergeron Y (2013) Species specific growth responses of black spruce and trembling aspen may enhance resilience of boreal forest to climate change. J Ecol 101:231–242
Environment Canada 2012. National climate archives. www.climate.weather.gc.ca/. Accessed 4 March 2012
Fraser EC, Lieffers VJ, Landhäusser SM (2006) Carbohydrate transfer through root grafts to support shaded trees. Tree Physiol 26:1019–1023
Gatsuk L, Smirnova O, Vorontzova L, Zaugolnova L, Zhukova L (1980) Age states of plants of various growth forms: a review. J Ecol 68:675–696
Gewehr S, Drobyshev I, Berninger F, Bergeron Y (2014) Soil characteristics mediate the distribution and response of boreal trees to climatic variability. Can J For Res 44:487–498
Graham BF Jr, Bormann FH (1966) Natural root grafts. Bot Rev 32:255–292
Grissino-Mayer HD (2001) Evaluating crossdating accuracy: a manual and tutorial for the computer program COFECHA. Tree-ring Res 57:205–221
Hogg EH, Hart M, Lieffers VJ (2002) White tree rings formed in trembling aspen saplings following experimental defoliation. Can J For Res 32:1929–1934
Jelínková H, Tremblay F, DesRochers A (2009) Molecular and dendrochronological analysis of natural root grafting in Populus tremuloides (Salicaceae). Am J Bot 96:1500
Jones JR, DeByle NV (1985) Genetics and variation. Aspen: Ecology and management in the western United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-119. Fort Collins, Co.: Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture
Jones B, Tardif J, Westwood R (2004) Weekly xylem production in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) in response to artificial defoliation. Can J Bot 82:590–597
Körner C (2003) Alpine plant life: functional plant ecology of high mountain ecosystems; with 47 tables. Springer Science & Business Media, New York
Lindroth RL, Roth S, Nordheim EV (2001) Genotypic variation in response of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) to atmospheric CO2 enrichment. Oecologia 126:371–379
Loehle C, Jones R (1990) Adaptive significance of root grafting in trees. Funct Ecol 4:268–271
MFFPQ 2015. Relevé des insectes et des maladies des arbres au Québec, Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec (MFFPQ), Québec, Québec. https://www.mffp.gouv.qc.ca/forets/fimaq/insectes/fimaq-insectes-portrait-faits.jsp. Accessed Nov 2015]
Morin H, Laprise D, Bergeron Y (1993) Chronology of spruce budworm outbreaks near Lake Duparquet, Abitibi region, Quebec. Can J For Res 23:1497–1506
Mudge K, Janick J, Scofield S, Goldschmidt EE (2009) A History of Grafting. Hortic Rev 35:437–493
Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin PR, O’Hara R, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Stevens M, Wagner H (2013) Package ‘vegan’. R Package ver 254:20–28
Osier TL, Lindroth RL (2001) Effects of genotype, nutrient availability, and defoliation on aspen phytochemistry and insect performance. J Chem Ecol 27:1289–1313
Peterson EB, Peterson NM (1992) Ecology, Management, and Use of Aspen and Balsam Poplar in the Prairie Provinces. Canada, Northern Forestry Centre
Pinheiro J, Bates D (2006) Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. Springer Science & Business Media, New York
Pitelka LF, Ashmun JW (1985) Physiology and integration of ramets in clonal plants. In: Jackson JBC, Buss LW, Cook RE (eds) Population biology and evolution of clonal organisms. Yale University Press, New Haven, pp 399–437
Plummer D, Caya D, Frigon A, Côté H, Giguère M, Paquin D, Biner S, Harvey R, De Elia R (2006) Climate and climate change over North America as simulated by the Canadian RCM. J Clim 19:3112–3132
Régnière J (1996) Generalized approach to landscape-wide seasonal forecasting with temperature-driven simulation models. Environ Entomol 25:869–881
Stokes M, Smiley T (1968) An introduction to tree-ring dating. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Stone E (1974) The communal root system of red pine: growth of girdled trees. Forest Science 20:294–305
Sutton A, Tardif J (2005) Distribution and anatomical characteristics of white rings in Populus tremuloides. IAWA J 26:221–238
Tarroux E, DesRochers A (2011) Effect of natural root grafting on growth response of jack pine (Pinus banksiana; Pinaceae). Am J Bot 98:967–974
Tarroux E, DesRochers A, Krause C (2010) Effect of natural root grafting on growth response of jack pine (Pinus banksiana) after commercial thinning. For Ecol Manage 260:526–535
Vincent J-S, Hardy L (1977) L’évolution et l’extension des lacs glaciaires Barlow et Ojibway en territoire québécois. Géog Phys Quatern 31:357–372
Wigley TM, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1984) On the average value of correlated time series, with applications in dendroclimatology and hydrometeorology. J Climate Appl Meteorol 23:201–213
Zang C, Biondi F (2013) Dendroclimatic calibration in R: the bootRes package for response and correlation function analysis. Dendrochronologia 31:68–74
Zang C, Biondi F (2015) treeclim: an R package for the numerical calibration of proxy-climate relationships. Ecography 38:431–436
This study was funded by a doctoral scholarship Bourse en Milieu Pratique Innovation to K.E. Adonsou provided by Fonds de Recherche Nature et Technologie du Québec, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Norbord Industries Inc. Additional financial support was provided through a Discovery grant to A. DesRochers from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. We thank the Rivest family, the landowner who generously accepted to sample in site 3. We also thank Melanie Desrochers for help with the for sampling sites location figure, and many students and technicians for their help in the field. The study was done within the framework of NordicDendro, a Nordic-Canadian network on forest growth research, supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers (Grant No. 12262 to ID).
Conflict of interest
Communicated by R. Guy.
About this article
Cite this article
Adonsou, K.E., Drobyshev, I., DesRochers, A. et al. Root connections affect radial growth of balsam poplar trees. Trees 30, 1775–1783 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-016-1409-2
- Populus balsamifera
- Malacosoma disstria
- Root grafting
- Insect outbreak
- Resource sharing
- Tree nutrition
- Biotic interactions
- Facilitation in plant communities
- Forest resilience