Response of Quercus velutina growth and water use efficiency to climate variability and nitrogen fertilization in a temperate deciduous forest in the northeastern USA
Nitrogen (N) deposition and changing climate patterns in the northeastern USA can influence forest productivity through effects on plant nutrient relations and water use. This study evaluates the combined effects of N fertilization, climate and rising atmospheric CO2 on tree growth and ecophysiology in a temperate deciduous forest. Tree ring widths and stable carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopes were used to assess tree growth (basal area increment, BAI) and intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) of Quercus velutina Lamb., the dominant tree species in a 20+ year N fertilization experiment at Harvard Forest (MA, USA). We found that fertilized trees exhibited a pronounced and sustained growth enhancement relative to control trees, with the low- and high-N treatments responding similarly. All treatments exhibited improved iWUE over the study period (1984–2011). Intrinsic water use efficiency trends in the control trees were primarily driven by changes in stomatal conductance, while a stimulation in photosynthesis, supported by an increase in foliar %N, contributed to enhancing iWUE in fertilized trees. All treatments were predominantly influenced by growing season vapor pressure deficit (VPD), with BAI responding most strongly to early season VPD and iWUE responding most strongly to late season VPD. Nitrogen fertilization increased Q. velutina sensitivity to July temperature and precipitation. Combined, these results suggest that ambient N deposition in N-limited northeastern US forests has enhanced tree growth over the past 30 years, while rising ambient CO2 has improved iWUE, with N fertilization and CO2 having synergistic effects on iWUE.
Oxford University Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Jennings K, Guerrieri R, Vadeboncoeur MA, Asbjornsen H. 2016. Response of Quercus velutina growth and water use efficiency to climate variability and nitrogen fertilization in a temperate deciduous forest in the northeastern U.S. Tree Physiology, 36: 428-443. doi:10.1093/treephys/tpw003
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