Articles | Volume 13, issue 19
Research article
05 Oct 2016
Research article |  | 05 Oct 2016

Feedbacks between earlywood anatomy and non-structural carbohydrates affect spring phenology and wood production in ring-porous oaks

Gonzalo Pérez-de-Lis, Ignacio García-González, Vicente Rozas, and José Miguel Olano

Abstract. Non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) play a central role in the construction and maintenance of a tree's vascular system, but feedbacks between the NSC status of trees and wood formation are not fully understood. We aimed to evaluate multiple dependencies among wood anatomy, winter NSC, and phenology for coexisting temperate (Quercus robur) and sub-Mediterranean (Q. pyrenaica) oaks along a water-availability gradient in the NW Iberian Peninsula. Sapwood NSC concentrations were quantified at three sites in December 2012 (N =  240). Leaf phenology and wood anatomy were surveyed in 2013. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the interplay among hydraulic diameter (Dh), winter NSC, budburst date, and earlywood vessel production (EVP), while the effect of Dh and EVP on latewood width was assessed by using a mixed-effects model. NSC and wood production increased under drier conditions for both species. Q. robur showed a narrower Dh and lower soluble sugar (SS) concentration (3.88–5.08 % dry matter) than Q. pyrenaica (4.06–5.57 % dry matter), but Q. robur exhibited larger EVP and wider latewood (1403 µm) than Q. pyrenaica (667 µm). Stem diameter and Dh had a positive effect on SS concentrations, which were related to an earlier leaf flushing in both species. Sapwood sugar content appeared to limit EVP exclusively in Q. pyrenaica. In turn, Dh and EVP were found to be key predictors of latewood growth. Our results confirm that sapwood SS concentrations are involved in modulating growth resumption and xylem production in spring. Q. pyrenaica exhibited a tighter control of carbohydrate allocation to wood formation than Q. robur, which would play a role in protecting against environmental stress in the sub-Mediterranean area.

Short summary
We evaluated relations between sapwood carbohydrate content and wood formation in Quercus robur and the more drought-tolerant Q. pyrenaica along a water-availability gradient in the NW Iberian Peninsula. Winter carbohydrate levels and wood production decreased under more humid conditions for both species. Our results also suggest that sugar levels in sapwood modulate earlywood production in Q. pyrenaica, which showed a more conservative carbon use strategy than Q. robur.
Final-revised paper