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.LinkDoi: 10.1093/treephys/tpv005
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.
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.LinkDoi: 10.3390/f6082505
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.
Caceres M.D., Martinez-Vilalta J., Coll L., Llorens P., Casals P., Poyatos R., Pausas J.G., Brotons L. (2015) Coupling a water balance model with forest inventory data to predict drought stress: The role of forest structural changes vs. climate changes. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 213: 77-90.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2015.06.012
Mechanistic water balance models can be used to predict soil moisture dynamics and drought stress in individual forest stands. Predicting current and future levels of plant drought stress is important not only at the local scale, but also at larger, landscape to regional, scales, because these are the management scales at which adaptation and mitigation strategies are implemented. To obtain reliable predictions of soil moisture and plant drought stress over large extents, water balance models need to be complemented with detailed information about the spatial variation of vegetation and soil attributes. We designed, calibrated and validated a water balance model that produces annual estimates of drought intensity and duration for all plant cohorts in a forest stand. Taking Catalonia (NE Spain) as a case study, we coupled this model with plot records from two Spanish forest inventories in which species identity, diameter and height of plant cohorts were available. Leaf area index of each plant cohort was estimated from basal area using species-specific relationships. Vertical root distribution for each species in each forest plot was estimated by determining the distribution that maximized transpiration in the model, given average climatic conditions, soil attributes and stand density. We determined recent trends (period 1980-2010) in drought stress for the main tree species in Catalonia; where forest growth and densification occurs in many areas as a result of rural abandonment and decrease of forest management. Regional increases in drought stress were detected for most tree species, although we found high variation in stress changes among individual forest plots. Moreover, predicted trends in tree drought stress were mainly due to changes in leaf area occurred between the two forest inventories rather than to climatic trends. We conclude that forest structure needs to be explicitly considered in assessments of plant drought stress patterns and trends over large geographic areas, and that forest inventories are useful sources of data provided that reasonably good estimates of soil attributes and root distribution are available. Our approach coupled with recent improvements in forest survey technologies may allow obtaining spatially continuous and precise assessments of drought stress. Further efforts are needed to calibrate drought-related demographic processes before water balance and drought stress estimates can be fully used for the accurate prediction of drought impacts. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
Salmon Y., Torres-Ruiz J.M., Poyatos R., Martinez-Vilalta J., Meir P., Cochard H., Mencuccini M. (2015) Balancing the risks of hydraulic failure and carbon starvation: A twig scale analysis in declining Scots pine. Plant, Cell and Environment. : 0-0.LinkDoi: 10.1111/pce.12572
Understanding physiological processes involved in drought-induced mortality is important for predicting the future of forests and for modelling the carbon and water cycles. Recent research has highlighted the variable risks of carbon starvation and hydraulic failure in drought-exposed trees. However, little is known about the specific responses of leaves and supporting twigs, despite their critical role in balancing carbon acquisition and water loss. Comparing healthy (non-defoliated) and unhealthy (defoliated) Scots pine at the same site, we measured the physiological variables involved in regulating carbon and water resources. Defoliated trees showed different responses to summer drought compared with non-defoliated trees. Defoliated trees maintained gas exchange while non-defoliated trees reduced photosynthesis and transpiration during the drought period. At the branch scale, very few differences were observed in non-structural carbohydrate concentrations between health classes. However, defoliated trees tended to have lower water potentials and smaller hydraulic safety margins. While non-defoliated trees showed a typical response to drought for an isohydric species, the physiology appears to be driven in defoliated trees by the need to maintain carbon resources in twigs. These responses put defoliated trees at higher risk of branch hydraulic failure and help explain the interaction between carbon starvation and hydraulic failure in dying trees. Understanding the physiological responses of leaves to drought is crucial since they are the site of both photosynthesis and transpiration, and hence play key roles in balancing the risks of carbon starvation and hydraulic failure. Co-occurring healthy and unhealthy Scots pines showed different responses to summer drought: while healthy trees showed a typical response to drought for an isohydric species, atypical physiology in unhealthy trees appears to be driven by the need to maintain carbohydrate availability in needles and twigs. These responses put unhealthy trees at higher risk of branch hydraulic failure and help to explain the interaction between carbon-starvation and hydraulic failure in dying trees. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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