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Effects of past growth trends and current water use strategies on Scots pine and pubescent oak drought sensitivity

Abstract

Drought-induced decline is affecting Pinus sylvestris populations in southern Europe, with very little impact on the more drought-tolerant Quercus pubescens. Although multiple studies have investigated interspecific differences in water use and growth strategies, the link between these two processes and how they vary within drought-exposed populations remains poorly understood. Here, we analysed tree ring and sap flow data from P. sylvestris and Q. pubescens stands in the Pyrenees in order to (1) evaluate differences in climate–growth responses among species, (2) disentangle the role of past growth trends and water use strategies in individual trees drought sensitivity and (3) assess whether such intraspecific patterns vary between species. Both species have suffered recent climatic constraints related to increased aridity. However, the effects of past growth trends and current water use traits on drought sensitivity varied among them. Initially, fast-growing ‘drought-sensitive’ pines displayed a higher gas exchange potential but were more sensitive to evaporative demand and soil moisture. They also showed lower water use efficiency for growth (WUEBAI) and current growth decline. In contrast, initially, slow-growing ‘drought-tolerant’ pines showed the opposite water use traits and currently maintain the highest growth rates. In comparison, neither current WUEBAI nor recent growth trends varied across Q. pubescens climate–growth groups. Nonetheless, ‘drought-sensitive’ oaks showed the lowest gas exchange potential and the highest growth rates under milder conditions. Our results show a strong effect of past growth trends and current water use strategies on tree resilience to increased aridity, which is more evident in P. sylvestris.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by MONTES (CSD2008-0040) funded by Spanish Government. TM-L was beneficiary of a ‘Fundación la Caixa’ grant, and RP was supported by a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral fellowship. We acknowledge help of García-Estríngana P. and Latron J. in field data acquisition, Riera J.L. in data analysis Gutierrez E. in dendroecological study, Delgado J. for providing us long-term climatic databases and Valladares F. for carefully reading this manuscript.

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Correspondence to T. Morán-López.

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Communicated by R. Matyssek.

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Morán-López, T., Poyatos, R., Llorens, P. et al. Effects of past growth trends and current water use strategies on Scots pine and pubescent oak drought sensitivity. Eur J Forest Res 133, 369–382 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10342-013-0768-0

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Keywords

  • Climate–growth relationships
  • Drought-induced decline
  • Pinus sylvestris
  • Quercus pubescens
  • Sap flow
  • Water use efficiency (WUE)