International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 59, Issue 8, pp 939–953 | Cite as

Plant-water relationships in the Great Basin Desert of North America derived from Pinus monophylla hourly dendrometer records

  • Franco BiondiEmail author
  • Sergio Rossi
Original Paper


Water is the main limiting resource for natural and human systems, but the effect of hydroclimatic variability on woody species in water-limited environments at sub-monthly time scales is not fully understood. Plant-water relationships of single-leaf pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) were investigated using hourly dendrometer and environmental data from May 2006 to October 2011 in the Great Basin Desert, one of the driest regions of North America. Average radial stem increments showed an annual range of variation below 1.0 mm, with a monotonic steep increase from May to July that yielded a stem enlargement of about 0.5 mm. Stem shrinkage up to 0.2 mm occurred in late summer, followed by an abrupt expansion of up to 0.5 mm in the fall, at the arrival of the new water year precipitation. Subsequent winter shrinkage and enlargement were less than 0.3 mm each. Based on 4 years with continuous data, diel cycles varied in both timing and amplitude between months and years. Phase shifts in circadian stem changes were observed between the growing season and the dormant one, with stem size being linked to precipitation more than to other water-related indices, such as relative humidity or soil moisture. During May–October, the amplitude of the phases of stem contraction, expansion, and increment was positively related to their duration in a nonlinear fashion. Changes in precipitation regime, which affected the diel phases especially when lasting more than 5–6 h, could substantially influence the dynamics of water depletion and replenishment in single-leaf pinyon pine.


Arid environments Diel cycles Point dendrometers Nevada Great Basin National Park Tree rings Hydroclimate Plant-water relationships Tree radius variation Automated sensors 



Authorization to install and operate the dendrometer sensors was provided by Great Basin National Park under permits GRBA-2003-SCI-0005 and GRBA-2007-SCI-0003, and we thank Gretchen Baker for her helpful cooperation. We are also extremely grateful to all the people and DendroLab personnel, especially Peter Hartsough and Scotty Strachan, who contributed, both in the field and in the laboratory, to the installation and maintenance of the dendrometer sensors. The conversion from binary to ASCII data for the period September 2009–October 2011 was performed by William Gensler of Agricultural Electronics, Tucson, Arizona. Very helpful suggestions and comments were provided by Annie Deslauriers of the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, Canada, as well as by Patrick Fonti and David Frank of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) in Birmensdorf, Switzerland. This research was supported, in part, by the US National Science Foundation under AGS-EAGER Grant No. 1256603 to F. Biondi. Completion of the article was allowed by a Visiting Scientist Travel Grant from the WSL in Birmensdorf awarded to F. Biondi through the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Switzerland, and by a Charles Bullard Fellowship received by F. Biondi from Harvard University to visit Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the funding agencies.

Supplementary material

484_2014_907_MOESM1_ESM.docx (466 kb)
Fig. S1 The single-leaf pinyon with two point dendrometers, one (C5) at a height of approximately 0.5 m and the other (C21) about 2.0 m above the ground (photo by F. Biondi). For scale, stem diameter at breast height was 25 cm. The day when the photograph was taken (23 March 2012) was stamped by the camera. (DOCX 465 kb)
484_2014_907_MOESM2_ESM.docx (461 kb)
Fig. S2 Time-series graphs of daily meteorological variables measured at the CASTNet station from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2011. Dotted vertical lines were drawn at midnight on the first day of each month; a red vertical line was used to indicate the first day of each year. Mean wind direction was computed using circular statistics (Fisher 1995). (DOCX 461 kb)
484_2014_907_MOESM3_ESM.docx (48 kb)
Fig. S3 Annual cycle of total precipitation (blue lines and symbols) and mean air temperature (red lines and symbols) based on monthly summaries (filled circles and squares) and their standard deviations (bars, truncated at zero for precipitation). (DOCX 47.9 kb)
484_2014_907_MOESM4_ESM.docx (305 kb)
Fig. S4 Diel cycles of meteorological variables measured at the CASTNet station (same data as those plotted in Fig. S2). Hourly values were computed by month over the six years of the study (2006-2011). Mean wind direction, which was computed using circular statistics (Fisher 1995), shows a shift between day and night that is discussed in the text, although these values cannot reveal the underlying variability during each hour, which was quite large; the early afternoon values in April were more erratic than at other hours or during other months. (DOCX 305 kb)
484_2014_907_MOESM5_ESM.docx (626 kb)
Fig. S5 Hourly stem size during October of every year (except for 2007 when September was used); vertical dotted lines were drawn at midnight to highlight each day. Daily expansion (red) and contraction (black) phases were identified from the dendrometer site composite (Fig. 4) using modified versions of published SAS routines (Deslauriers et al. 2011). It is quite evident that there are major, rapid changes, which correspond to precipitation events shown in Fig. S6. (DOCX 626 kb)
484_2014_907_MOESM6_ESM.docx (655 kb)
Fig. S6 Hourly environmental data during October of every year (except for 2007 when September was used); vertical dotted lines were drawn at midnight to highlight each day. Soil moisture was not available in 2006 and 2007, but either precipitation events or the associated soil moisture responses triggered the rapid stem enlargements shown in Fig. S5. (DOCX 655 kb)


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Copyright information

© ISB 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DendroLab, Department of GeographyUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  2. 2.Harvard ForestHarvard UniversityPetershamUSA
  3. 3.Département des Sciences FondamentalesUniversité du Québec à ChicoutimiChicoutimiCanada

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