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Extreme droughts affecting Mediterranean tree species' growth and water-use efficiency: the importance of timing

AuthorsForner, Alicia ; Valladares Ros, Fernando ; Bonal, Damien; Granier, André; Grossiord, Charlotte; Aranda, Ismael
KeywordsCarbon isotope composition
Extreme drought
Pinus nigra
Quercus faginea
Quercus ilex
Water-use efficiency
Issue DateAug-2018
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationTree Physiology 38(8): 1127-1137 (2018)
AbstractIt has been known for a long time that drought intensity is a critical variable in determining water stress of Mediterranean tree species. However, not as much attention has been paid to other drought characteristics, for example the timing of the dry periods. We investigated the impact of the timing and intensity of extreme droughts on growing season length, growth and water-use efficiency of three tree species, Pinus nigra ssp. Salzmannii J.F. Arnold, Quercus ilex ssp. ballota (Desf.) Samp. and Quercus faginea Lam. coexisting in a continental Mediterranean ecosystem. Over the study period (2009-13), intense droughts were observed at annual and seasonal scales, particularly during 2011 and 2012. In 2012, an atypically dry winter and spring was followed by an intense summer drought. Quercus faginea growth was affected more by drought timing than by drought intensity, probably because of its winter-deciduous leaf habit. Pinus nigra showed a lower decrease in secondary growth than observed in the two Quercus species in extremely dry years. Resilience to extreme droughts was different among species, with Q. faginea showing poorer recovery of growth after very dry years. The highest intra- and inter-annual plasticity in water-use efficiency was observed in P. nigra, which maintained a more water-saving strategy. Our results revealed that the timing of extreme drought events can affect tree function to a larger extent than drought intensity, especially in deciduous species. Legacy effects of drought over months and years significantly strengthened the impact of drought timing and intensity on tree function.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpy022
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