Xylem adjustment of sessile oak at its southern distribution limits. uri icon

abstract

  • Drought is a key limiting factor for tree growth in the Mediterranean Basin. However, the variability in acclimation via xylem traits is largely unknown. We studied tree growth and vessel features of Quercus petraea (Matt.) Lieb. in five marginal stands across southern Europe. Tree- ring width (TRW), mean earlywood vessel area (MVA) and number of earlywood vessels (NV) as well as theoretical hydraulic conductivity (Kh) chronologies were developed for the period 1963- 2012. Summer drought signals were consistent among TRW chronologies; however, climatic responses of vessel features differed considerably among sites. At the three xeric sites, previous year's summer drought had a negative effect on MVA and a positive effect on NV. In contrast, at the two mesic sites, current year's spring drought negatively affected NV, while exerting a positive influence on MVA. In both cases, Kh was not altered by this xylem adjustment. All variables revealed identical east- west geographical patterns in growth and anatomical features. Sessile oak copes with drought in different ways: at xeric sites and after unfavourable previous summer conditions more but smaller vessels are built, lowering vulnerability to cavitation, whereas at mesic sites, dry springs partly lead to tree- rings with wider but fewer vessels. The variability of vessel- related features displays a similar geographical dipole in the Mediterranean Basin previously described for tree growth by other studies.

publication date

  • 2017
  • 2017