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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