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University of Basel (2019)

Drought effects on carbon and nutrient dynamics in Scots pine : homeostasis, thresholds and tipping points

Schönbeck, Leonie.

Titre : Drought effects on carbon and nutrient dynamics in Scots pine : homeostasis, thresholds and tipping points

Auteur : Schönbeck, Leonie.

Université de soutenance : University of Basel

Grade : Doktors der Philosophie 2019

Résumé partiel
Species of the tree genus Pine (Pinus L.) exist all over the world and no other group contains so many attractive forms (Curtis & Bausor, 1943) . Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) is currently the most widely distributed pine and occurs throughout all of Eurasia. In the central alpine valleys, Scots pine is growing at the dry border of its distribution range, which involves overcoming periods with extreme low water availability. Although the species is known for its ability to grow on dry and nutrient poor soils, several extreme droughts during the last two decades have caused a 50% dieback of Scots pine in the dry valleys of the Central Alps in Switzerland. The ability of trees to survive drought is determined by their initial health and their resilience to drought, as well as on the characteristics of a drought event – i.e. timing, duration and intensity. The mechanisms underlying drought-induced mortality are still unclear, as well as the recovery process after soil rewetting. Furthermore, possible mitigation or aggravation of drought effects by elevated nutrient availability in the soil has not been studied before. The carbon (C) balance in trees is used as an indicator for C assimilation, growth, defense and storage processes. When trees are exposed to drought, to changes in soil nutrition or sudden defoliation, the C balance may change. In this thesis, the main objective was thus to combine effects of drought and fertilization to study the C and nitrogen (N) dynamics in Scots pine trees. In the first chapter, I give an overview of the state-of-the-art in research on drought-affected C and N dynamics in trees. The aim of the second chapter was to assess the effects of long-term drought release on growth and non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations of adult P. sylvestris trees. A long-term (13 years) irrigation experiment was conducted in the Pfynwald, a Scots pine dominated forest located at the dry distribution margin of the species in southern Switzerland. I measured growth, NSC, N and phosphorus (P) concentrations, as well as the natural abundance of 13C isotopes on trees with different leaf area in control and irrigation plots. Irrigation resulted in higher growth rates and carbon isotope discrimination, but did not alter NSC levels. Growth and NSC decreased with lower leaf area in both control and irrigated trees, but NSC did not correlate with leaf-level gas exchange indices such as foliar δ13C, which is an indicator for water use efficiency, N or P, which are both stimulants of photosynthesis. Trees with initially low leaf area had limited ability to respond to the long-term irrigation, indicating a legacy effect of previously low crown condition. The NSC constancy across treatments suggests that carbohydrate storage may stay constant when changes in climate are slow enough to allow acclimation. Moreover, total leaf area, rather than leaf gas exchange per unit leaf area, drives variation in whole-tree carbohydrate dynamics in this system.


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