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  1. Abstract

    Plant survival depends on a balance between carbon supply and demand. When carbon supply becomes limited, plants buffer demand by using stored carbohydrates (sugar and starch). During drought, NSCs (non-structural carbohydrates) may accumulate if growth stops before photosynthesis. This expectation is pervasive, yet few studies have combined simultaneous measurements of drought, photosynthesis, growth, and carbon storage to test this. Using a field experiment with mature trees in a semi-arid woodland, we show that growth and photosynthesis slow in parallel as$${\psi }_{{pd}}$$ψpddeclines, preventing carbon storage in two species of conifer (J. monospermaandP. edulis). During experimental drought, growth and photosynthesis were frequently co-limited. Our results point to an alternative perspective on how plants use carbon that views growth and photosynthesis as independent processes both regulated by water availability.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Heat and drought affect plant chemical defenses and thereby plant susceptibility to pests and pathogens. Monoterpenes are of particular importance for conifers as they play critical roles in defense against bark beetles. To date, work seeking to understand the impacts of heat and drought on monoterpenes has primarily focused on young potted seedlings, leaving it unclear how older age classes that are more vulnerable to bark beetles might respond to stress. Furthermore, we lack a clear picture of what carbon resources might be prioritized to support monoterpene synthesis under drought stress. To address this, we measured needle and woody tissue monoterpene concentrations and physiological variables simultaneously from mature piñon pines (Pinus edulis) from a unique temperature and drought manipulation field experiment. While heat had no effect on total monoterpene concentrations, trees under combined heat and drought stress exhibited ~ 85% and 35% increases in needle and woody tissue, respectively, over multiple years. Plant physiological variables like maximum photosynthesis each explained less than 10% of the variation in total monoterpenes for both tissue types while starch and glucose + fructose measured 1-month prior explained ~ 45% and 60% of the variation in woody tissue total monoterpene concentrations. Although total monoterpenes increased under combined stress, some key monoterpenes with known roles in bark beetle ecology decreased. These shifts may make trees more favorable for bark beetle attack rather than well defended, which one might conclude if only considering total monoterpene concentrations. Our results point to cumulative and synergistic effects of heat and drought that may reprioritize carbon allocation of specific non-structural carbohydrates toward defense.

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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Forest dynamics arise from the interplay of environmental drivers and disturbances with the demographic processes of recruitment, growth, and mortality, subsequently driving biomass and species composition. However, forest disturbances and subsequent recovery are shifting with global changes in climate and land use, altering these dynamics. Changes in environmental drivers, land use, and disturbance regimes are forcing forests toward younger, shorter stands. Rising carbon dioxide, acclimation, adaptation, and migration can influence these impacts. Recent developments in Earth system models support increasingly realistic simulations of vegetation dynamics. In parallel, emerging remote sensing datasets promise qualitatively new and more abundant data on the underlying processes and consequences for vegetation structure. When combined, these advances hold promise for improving the scientific understanding of changes in vegetation demographics and disturbances. 
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  5. Abstract

    Enhancing tree diversity may be important to fostering resilience to drought‐related climate extremes. So far, little attention has been given to whether tree diversity can increase the survival of trees and reduce its variability in young forest plantations.

    We conducted an analysis of seedling and sapling survival from 34 globally distributed tree diversity experiments (363,167 trees, 168 species, 3744 plots, 7 biomes) to answer two questions: (1) Do drought and tree diversity alter the mean and variability in plot‐level tree survival, with higher and less variable survival as diversity increases? and (2) Do species that survive poorly in monocultures survive better in mixtures and do specific functional traits explain monoculture survival?

    Tree species richness reduced variability in plot‐level survival, while functional diversity (Rao's Q entropy) increased survival and also reduced its variability. Importantly, the reduction in survival variability became stronger as drought severity increased. We found that species with low survival in monocultures survived comparatively better in mixtures when under drought. Species survival in monoculture was positively associated with drought resistance (indicated by hydraulic traits such as turgor loss point), plant height and conservative resource‐acquisition traits (e.g. low leaf nitrogen concentration and small leaf size).

    Synthesis.The findings highlight: (1) The effectiveness of tree diversity for decreasing the variability in seedling and sapling survival under drought; and (2) the importance of drought resistance and associated traits to explain altered tree species survival in response to tree diversity and drought. From an ecological perspective, we recommend mixing be considered to stabilize tree survival, particularly when functionally diverse forests with drought‐resistant species also promote high survival of drought‐sensitive species.

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  6. Summary

    Trees may survive prolonged droughts by shifting water uptake to reliable water sources, but it is unknown if the dominant mechanism involves activating existing roots or growing new roots during drought, or some combination of the two.

    To gain mechanistic insights on this unknown, a dynamic root‐hydraulic modeling framework was developed that set up a feedback between hydraulic controls over carbon allocation and the role of root growth on soil–plant hydraulics. The new model was tested using a 5 yr drought/heat field experiment on an established piñon‐juniper stand with root access to bedrock groundwater.

    Owing to the high carbon cost per unit root area, modeled trees initialized without adequate bedrock groundwater access experienced potentially lethal declines in water potential, while all of the experimental trees maintained nonlethal water potentials. Simulated trees were unable to grow roots rapidly enough to mediate the hydraulic stress, particularly during warm droughts. Alternatively, modeled trees initiated with root access to bedrock groundwater matched the hydraulics of the experimental trees by increasing their water uptake from bedrock groundwater when soil layers dried out.

    Therefore, the modeling framework identified a critical mechanism for drought response that required trees to shift water uptake among existing roots rather than growing new roots.

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