Ecosystem-scale rainfall manipulation in a Pinon-Juniper woodland: Tree Sapwood and Leaf Area Data (2011)

Summary

Abstract: 

Climate models predict that water limited regions around the world will become drier and warmer in the near future, including southwestern North America. We developed a large-scale experimental system that allows testing of the ecosystem impacts of precipitation changes. Four treatments were applied to 1600 m2 plots (40 m × 40 m), each with three replicates in a piñon pine (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Juniper monosperma) ecosystem. These species have extensive root systems, requiring large-scale manipulation to effectively alter soil water availability. Treatments consisted of: 1) irrigation plots that receive supplemental water additions, 2) drought plots that receive 55% of ambient rainfall, 3) cover-control plots that receive ambient precipitation, but allow determination of treatment infrastructure artifacts, and 4) ambient control plots. Our drought structures effectively reduced soil water potential and volumetric water content compared to the ambient, cover-control, and water addition plots. Drought and cover control plots experienced an average increase in maximum soil and air temperature at ground level of 1-4° C during the growing season compared to ambient plots, and concurrent short-term diurnal increases in maximum air temperature were also observed directly above and below plastic structures. Our drought and irrigation treatments significantly influenced tree predawn water potential, sap-flow, and net photosynthesis, with drought treatment trees exhibiting significant decreases in physiological function compared to ambient and irrigated trees. Supplemental irrigation resulted in a significant increase in both plant water potential and xylem sap-flow compared to trees in the other treatments. This experimental design effectively allows manipulation of plant water stress at the ecosystem scale, permits a wide range of drought conditions, and provides prolonged drought conditions comparable to historical droughts in the past – drought events for which wide-spread mortality in both these species was observed. The focus of this study was to determine the effects of rainfall manipulation on our two target tree species.  Therefore, the analysis of the water relations of these trees was an essential component of the project.  Sap-flow within each individual target tree was monitored through the use of Granier probes.  These monitoring efforts provided a window on processes such as transpiration and the night-time re-filling of the xylem tissue.  Drought tolerance and adaptation strategies were also explored by comparing differences in sap-flow rates across treatment types and between species.

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288
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Sunday, January 1, 2006 to Monday, December 31, 2012

Publication Date: 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
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