Widespread tree species must show physiological and structural plasticity to deal with contrasting water balance conditions. To investigate these plasticity mechanisms, a meta-analysis of Pinus sylvestris L. sap flow and its response to environmental variables was conducted using datasets from across its whole geographical range. For each site, a Jarvis-type, multiplicative model was used to fit the relationship between sap flow and photosynthetically active radiation, vapour pressure deficit (D) and soil moisture deficit (SMD); and a logarithmic function was used to characterize the response of stomatal conductance (Gs) to D. The fitted parameters of those models were regressed against climatic variables to study the acclimation of Scots pine to dry/warm conditions. The absolute value of sap flow and its sensitivity to D and SMD increased with the average summer evaporative demand. However, relative sensitivity of Gs to D (m/Gs,ref, where m is the slope and Gs,ref is reference Gs at D = 1 kPa) did not increase with evaporative demand across populations, and transpiration per unit leaf area at a given D increased accordingly in drier/warmer climates. This physiological plasticity was linked to the previously reported climate- and size-related structural acclimation of leaf to sapwood area ratios. Gs,ref and its absolute sensitivity to D(m), tended to decrease with age/height of the trees as previously reported for other pine species. It is unclear why Scots pines have higher transpiration rates at drier/warmer sites, at the expense of lower water-use efficiency. In any case, our results suggest that these structural adjustments may not be enough to prevent lower xylem tensions at the driest sites.
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