Effects of an Experimental Drought on Balsam Fir Xylogenesis in the Eastern Canada Boreal Forest.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Loïc D'Orangeville1, Benoît Côté1, Daniel Houle2 and Hubert Morin3, (1)McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, (2)Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources MRN, Forest Research, Quebec City, QC, Canada, (3)University of Quebec at Chicoutimi UQAC, Chicoutimi, QC, Canada
A 20–40% reduction in soil moisture is projected for the boreal forest of Eastern Canada for the period 2070–99 relative to 1971–2000. In order to better predict the effects of a reduced water supply on the growth of balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.), a dominant tree species of the boreal forest, we simulated 2 consecutive years of summer droughts (starting in July) by means of throughfall exclusion.

Four 100-m2 plots were established in 2010 with polyethylene sheets maintained 1.3–2 m aboveground and redirecting the water outside the plots. Wood microcores were extracted weekly from mature trees from April to October 2011 to analyse the time dynamics of wood formation in that year. The number of tracheids formed during and before treatment and their anatomical characteristics were determined through microscopic analyses. The growth of lateral and terminal branches and the water potential of balsam fir seedlings were also monitored.

Throughfall exclusion significantly reduced soil water content by 5.8% in 2010 and 10.5% in 2011. Xylogenesis was affected significantly by the treatment. Tracheids were 16.1% smaller in diameter and their cell wall was 14.1% thicker during both years. The treatment delayed by more than a week the start of the tracheid differentiation process in the second year with a concomitant decrease (26%) in the number of tracheids produced. The seedlings displayed a 32% reduction in growth and a 40% reduction in leaf water potential. Our results suggest that a future regime of increased frequency and intensity of droughts could have nega­tive effects on the duration of xylogenesis and the amount of carbon sequestrated in balsam fir.