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Ectomycorrhizal Networks of Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca Trees Facilitate Establishment of Conspecific Seedlings Under Drought


Ectomycorrhizal (EM) networks are hypothesized to facilitate regeneration under abiotic stress. We tested the role of networks in interactions between P. menziesii var. glauca trees and conspecific seedlings along a climatic moisture gradient to: (1) determine the effects of climatic factors on network facilitation of Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco var. glauca (Mayr) seedling establishment, (2) infer the changing importance of P. menziesii var. glauca parent trees in conspecific regeneration with climate, and (3) parse the competitive from facilitative effects of P. menziesii var. glauca trees on seedlings. When drought conditions were greatest, seedling growth increased when seedlings could form a network with trees in the absence of root competition, but was reduced when unable to form a network. Survival was maximized when seedlings were able to form a network in the absence of root competition. Seedling stem natural abundance δ13C increased with drought due to increasing water use efficiency, but was unaffected by distance from tree or network potential. We conclude that P. menziesii seedlings may benefit from the presence of established P. menziesii trees when growing under climatic drought, but that this benefit is contingent upon the establishment of an EM network prior to the onset of summer drought. These results suggest that networks are an important mechanism for EM plants establishing in a pattern consistent with the stress-gradient hypothesis, and therefore the importance of EM networks to facilitation in regeneration of EM trees is expected to increase with drought.

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We thank Robert Guy, Melanie Jones, and Sally Aitken for invaluable help in the design and implementation of the field and laboratory methods. This research was funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant and a Forest Innovation Investment-Forest Science Program grant to S.S.

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Correspondence to Marcus A. Bingham.

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Author Contributions

Bingham had the principal role of designing the study, writing and interpreting, analyzing data, and coordinating and conducting field and laboratory analyses. Simard coordinated funding for the project and assisted in designing the study, as well as contributing to the writing and interpretation.

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 58.5 kb)

Map showing the locations of seed trees (colored by site) and seed sources (labeled with seedlot number) with respect to the biogeoclimatic unit (colored by area) and seed planning zones (outlined and labeled in white) in which they occur. Seed trees are labeled individually to show dispersion within each site (TIF 433 kb)

Location of possible transect positions (represented by stars at 2.5 m) around a residual tree (filled circle), with an example of a transect at 260° (stars along transect representing seedling positions on transect). Each position along the transect represents an experimental unit (TIF 433 kb)

Four perspectives of a three-dimensional graph of the relationship of drought (summer heat:moisture index) and ln(growth) (natural logarithm of proportional biomass increase) after adjusting for covariates at different distances from the established tree under the no mesh treatment (blue), the 0.5-µm mesh treatment (red) and the 35-µm mesh treatment (green) (TIF 433 kb)

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Bingham, M.A., Simard, S. Ectomycorrhizal Networks of Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca Trees Facilitate Establishment of Conspecific Seedlings Under Drought. Ecosystems 15, 188–199 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-011-9502-2

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  • climate change
  • climatic gradients
  • competition
  • Douglas-fir
  • ecophysiology
  • facilitation
  • mycorrhizal networks
  • plant water relations
  • reforestation
  • stress-gradient hypothesis