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Phenology and growth dynamics in Mediterranean evergreen oaks: Effects of environmental conditions and water relations

Pinto, C.A., Henriques, M.O., Figueiredo, J.P., David, J.S., Abreu, F.G., Pereira, J.S., Correia, I., David, T.S.
Forest ecology and management 2011 v.262 no.3 pp. 500-508
Quercus ilex, Quercus suber, autumn, carbon, climate change, dry season, environmental impact, heat sums, leaf water potential, nutrient availability, phenology, photoperiod, rain, shoots, spring, temperature, topsoil, tree growth, trees, water stress, woodlands, working conditions
Budburst date and shoot elongation were measured in two mature Mediterranean evergreen oaks (Quercus suber and Quercus ilex) and their relationships with meteorological and tree water status (predawn leaf water potential) data were analysed. Experimental work took place at two sites: Mitra 2 – Southern Portugal (2002–2003) and Lezirias – Central Portugal (2007–2010). Quercus suber phenology was studied at both sites whereas Q. ilex was only studied at Mitra 2. Quercus suber budburst date occurred at a photoperiod around 13.8h (± 0.26) – late April/early May – and was highly related to the average daily temperature in the period 25 March – budburst date (ca. 1.5months prior to budburst), irrespective of site location. In that period, budburst date was much more dependent on average maximum than average minimum daily temperature. Base temperature and thermal time for Q. suber were estimated as 6.2°C (within the reported literature values) and 323 degree-days, respectively. Q. ilex budburst occurred about 6weeks earlier than in Q. suber (photoperiod: 12.3h (±0.3)). Relationships of Q. ilex budburst date and temperature were not studied since only 2years of data were available for this species. Q. suber shoot elongation underlying mechanisms were quite different in the two sites. At Mitra 2 (Q. suber and Q. ilex), there was a considerable tree water stress during the dry season which restricted shoot elongation. Shoot growth was resumed later in the wet autumn when tree water status recovered again. At the Lezirias site Q. suber water status was not restrictive. Therefore, shoot elongation was mainly dependent on nutrient availability in top soil, as suggested by the strong and positive relationships between annual shoot growth and long-term cumulative rainfall (2–4months) and short-term average temperature (1month) prior to budburst. Annual shoot elongation at this well-watered site was higher than in Mitra 2, and variability of growth between trees was enhanced after warm, wet springs when shoot elongation was higher. Results obtained are relevant to the carbon balance, productivity and management of evergreen Mediterranean oak woodlands, particularly under the foreseen climate change scenarios.