Single-provenance mature conifers show higher non-structural carbohydrate storage and reduced growth in a drier location

Piper, Frida I. and Fajardo, Alex and Hoch, Günter. (2017) Single-provenance mature conifers show higher non-structural carbohydrate storage and reduced growth in a drier location. Tree Physiology, 37 (8). pp. 1001-1010.

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Since growth is more sensitive to drought than photosynthesis, trees inhabiting dry regions are expected to exhibit higher carbohydrate storage and less growth than their conspecifics from more humid regions. However, the same pattern can be the result of different genotypes inhabiting contrasting humidity conditions. To test if reduced growth and high carbohydrate storage are environmentally driven by drought, we examined the growth and non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations in single-provenance stands of mature trees of Pinus contorta Douglas and Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex C. Lawson planted at contrasting humidity conditions (900 versus 300 mm of annual precipitation) in Patagonia, Chile. Individual tree growth was measured for each species and at each location as mean basal area increment of the last 10 years (BAI10), annual shoot elongation for the period 2011-14, and needle length for 2013 and 2014 cohorts. Additionally, needle, branch, stem sapwood and roots were collected from each sampled tree to determine soluble sugars, starch and total NSC concentrations. The two species showed lower mean BAI10 and 2013 needle length in the dry site; P. ponderosa also had lower annual shoot extension for 2011 and 2014, and lower 2014 needle length, in the dry than in the mesic site. By contrast, NSC concentrations of all woody tissues for both species were either similar or higher in the dry site when compared with the mesic site. Patterns of starch and sugars were substantially different: starch concentrations were similar between sites except for roots of P. ponderosa, which were higher in the dry site, while sugar concentrations of all woody tissues in both species were higher in the dry site. Overall, our study provides evidence that reduced growth along with carbon (C) accumulation is an environmentally driven response to drought. Furthermore, the significant accumulation of low-molecular weight sugars in the dry site is compatible with a prioritized C allocation for osmoregulation. However, since this accumulation did not come at the expense of reduced starch, it is unlikely that growth was limited by C supply in the dry site.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Physiological Plant Ecology (Kahmen)
UniBasel Contributors:Hoch, Günter
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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edoc DOI:
Last Modified:01 Jul 2020 12:49
Deposited On:19 Oct 2017 09:22

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