Intra-annual radial growth and water relations of trees: implications towards a growth mechanism
Roman Zweifel*, Lukas Zimmermann, Fabienne Zeuginand David M. Newbery
Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: email@example.com
Received 19 September 2005; Accepted 18 January 2006
There is a missing link between tree physiological and wood-anatomical knowledge which makes it impossible mechanistically to explain and predict the radial growth of individual trees from climate data. Empirical data of microclimatic factors, intra-annual growth rates, and tree-specific ratios between actual and potential transpiration (T PET–1) of trees of three species (Quercus pubescens, Pinus sylvestris, and Picea abies) at two dry sites in the central Wallis, Switzerland, were recorded from 2002 to 2004 at a 10 min resolution. This included the exceptionally hot and dry summer of 2003. These data were analysed in terms of direct (current conditions) and indirect impacts (predispositions of the past year) on growth. Rain was found to be the only factor which, to a large extent, consistently explained the radial increment for all three tree species at both sites and in the short term as well. Other factors had some explanatory power on the seasonal time-scale only. Quercus pubescens built up much of its tree ring before bud break. Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies started radial growth 1–2 weeks after Quercus pubescens and this was despite the fact that they had a high T PET–1 before budburst and radial growth started. A high T PET–1 was assumed to be related to open stomata, a very high net CO2 assimilation rate, and thus a potential carbon (C)-income for the tree. The main period of radial growth covered about 30–70% of the productive days of a year. In terms of C-allocation, these results mean that Quercus pubescens depended entirely on internal C-stores in the early phase of radial growth and that for all three species there was a long time period of C-assimilation which was not used for radial growth in above-ground wood. The results further suggest a strong dependence of radial growth on the current tree water relations and only secondarily on the C-balance. A concept is discussed which links radial growth over a feedback loop to actual tree water-relations and long-term affected C-storage to microclimate.
Key words: Carbon allocation, tree rings, water relations