The role of defoliation and root rot pathogen infection in driving the mode of drought-related physiological decline in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.)

Aguade D., Poyatos R., Gomez M., Oliva J., Martinez-Vilalta J. (2015) The role of defoliation and root rot pathogen infection in driving the mode of drought-related physiological decline in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.). Tree Physiology. 35: 229-242.
Link
Doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpv005

Abstract:

Drought-related tree die-off episodes have been observed in all vegetated continents. Despite much research effort, however, the multiple interactions between carbon starvation, hydraulic failure and biotic agents in driving tree mortality under field conditions are still not well understood. We analysed the seasonal variability of non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) in four organs (leaves, branches, trunk and roots), the vulnerability to embolism in roots and branches, native embolism (percentage loss of hydraulic conductivity (PLC)) in branches and the presence of root rot pathogens in defoliated and non-defoliated individuals in a declining Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) population in the NE Iberian Peninsula in 2012, which included a particularly dry and warm summer. No differences were observed between defoliated and non-defoliated pines in hydraulic parameters, except for a higher vulnerability to embolism at pressures below-2 MPa in roots of defoliated pines. No differences were found between defoliation classes in branch PLC. Total NSC (TNSC, soluble sugars plus starch) values decreased during drought, particularly in leaves. Defoliation reduced TNSC levels across tree organs, especially just before (June) and during (August) drought. Root rot infection by the fungal pathogen Onnia P. Karst spp. was detected but it did not appear to be associated to tree defoliation. However, Onnia infection was associated with reduced leaf-specific hydraulic conductivity and sapwood depth, and thus contributed to hydraulic impairment, especially in defoliated pines. Infection was also associated with virtually depleted root starch reserves during and after drought in defoliated pines. Moreover, defoliated and infected trees tended to show lower basal area increment. Overall, our results show the intertwined nature of physiological mechanisms leading to drought-induced mortality and the inherent difficulty of isolating their contribution under field conditions. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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Comparative drought responses of Quercus ilex L. and Pinus sylvestris L. In a montane forest undergoing a vegetation shift

Aguade D., Poyatos R., Rosas T., Martinez-Vilalta J. (2015) Comparative drought responses of Quercus ilex L. and Pinus sylvestris L. In a montane forest undergoing a vegetation shift. Forests. 6: 2505-2529.
Link
Doi: 10.3390/f6082505

Abstract:

Different functional and structural strategies to cope with water shortage exist both within and across plant communities. The current trend towards increasing drought in many regions could drive some species to their physiological limits of drought tolerance, potentially leading to mortality episodes and vegetation shifts. In this paper, we study the drought responses of Quercus ilex and Pinus sylvestris in a montane Mediterranean forest where the former species is replacing the latter in association with recent episodes of drought-induced mortality. Our aim was to compare the physiological responses to variations in soil water content (SWC) and vapor pressure deficit (VPD) of the two species when living together in a mixed stand or separately in pure stands, where the canopies of both species are completely exposed to high radiation and VPD. P. sylvestris showed typical isohydric behavior, with greater losses of stomatal conductance with declining SWC and greater reductions of stored non-structural carbohydrates during drought, consistent with carbon starvation being an important factor in the mortality of this species. On the other hand, Q. ilex trees showed a more anisohydric behavior, experiencing more negative water potentials and higher levels of xylem embolism under extreme drought, presumably putting them at higher risk of hydraulic failure. In addition, our results show relatively small changes in the physiological responses of Q. ilex in mixed vs. pure stands, suggesting that the current replacement of P. sylvestris by Q. ilex will continue. © 2015 by the authors.

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