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Increasing nitrogen availability and soil temperature: effects on xylem phenology and anatomy of mature black spruce

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Since plant growth in the boreal forest is often considered to be limited by low temperatures and low N availability and these variables are projected to increase due to climate warming and increased anthropogenic activities, it is important to understand whether and to what extent these disturbances may affect the growth of boreal trees. In this study, the hypotheses that wood phenology and anatomy were affected by increased soil temperatures and N depositions have been tested in two mature black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) stands at different altitudes in Quebec, Canada. For 3 years, soil temperature was increased by 4 °C during the first part of the growing season and precipitations containing three times the current N concentration were added in the field by frequent canopy applications. Soil warming resulted in earlier onsets of xylogenesis and interacted with N addition producing longer durations of xylogenesis for the treated trees. The effect of warming was especially marked in the phenology of roots, while wood production, in terms of number of tracheids, was not affected by the treatment. Xylem anatomy and soil and needle chemistry showed no effect of the treatments, except for an increase of cell wall thickness in earlywood of treated trees. This short-term experiment with black spruce suggested that previous fertilization studies that used large and unrealistic rates of N addition may have overestimated the impact of N depositions on boreal forest productivity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Département de Sciences Fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555, boulevard de l’Université, Chicoutimi, QC G7H 2B1, Canada 2: Direction de la recherche forestière, Forêt Québec, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 2700, rue Einstein, Montréal, QC G1P 3W8, Canada

Publication date: July 19, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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