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Correlated Population Differences in Dry Matter Accumulation, Allocation, and Water-Use Efficiency in Three Sympatric Conifer Species

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Populations of three sympatric conifer species, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco), ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.), and western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.), were studied for growth, water-use efficiency, and dry matter allocation. Seedlings from seed collected from across the respective natural distributions were grown under two watering regimes. In addition, trees at age 12 for western larch and 20 for ponderosa pine were sampled from experimental plantings. Seedling growth was measured in terms of total dry matter, aboveground dry matter, height, diameter, and relative growth rate; tree growth in the field was measured in terms of height. Dry matter allocation was measured in terms of leaf weight ratio and root weight ratio. Water-use efficiency was measured in terms of biomass production per unit water loss and stable carbon isotope discrimination. Douglas-fir populations differed in all measured variables under both watering regimes (all P ≤ 0.04); correlations between measurements under well-watered and water-stressed conditions were high (0.69 ≤ r ≤ 0.99). Ponderosa pine populations differed consistently in leaf weight ratio and root weight ratio (all P ≤ 0.02), less consistently in growth (0.00 < P ≤ 0.35); and only leaf weight ratio and height were significantly correlated between watering regimes (0.82 ≤ r ≤ 0.85). Western larch populations differed inconsistently in dry matter allocation (0.01 ≤ P ≤ 0.15) and growth (0.00 < P ≤ 0.82); however, population differences in total dry matter, aboveground dry matter, relative growth rate, and leaf weight ratio were significantly correlated between watering regimes (0.56 ≤ r ≤ 0.75). Generally speaking, total dry matter was correlated with water-use efficiency (WUE) but not allocation in western larch, with allocation but not WUE in ponderosa pine, and with both allocation and WUE in Douglas-fir. Similarly, tree height was significantly correlated with carbon isotope discrimination (Δ) in Douglas-fir and in 12-yr-old trees of western larch, but not ponderosa pine. These results suggest that water-use efficiency correlated with growth much more consistently than dry matter allocation. The simplicity of measuring Δ and its stability in this and other studies lead us to suggest that carbon isotope discrimination may be used as a marker for selection and breeding programs to improve growth for Douglas-fir and western larch For. Sci. 42(2):242-249.
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Keywords: Larix occidentalis; Pinus ponderosa; Pseudotsuga menziesii; carbon; isotope discrimination; population differences

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Professor, Department of Forest Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83843

Publication date: 1996-05-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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