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Red hot maples: Acer rubrum first-year phenology and growth responses to soil warming

Wheeler, J.A., Gonzalez, N.M., Stinson, K.A.
Canadian journal of forest research = 2016 v.47 no.2 pp. 159-165
Acer rubrum, autumn, biomass, carbon, dry matter partitioning, environmental factors, germination, growing season, hardwood forests, leaf area, leaf development, leaves, microhabitats, phenology, plant establishment, prediction, seedlings, soil heating, soil temperature, species recruitment, trees, North America
Microhabitat environmental conditions are an important filter for seedling establishment, controlling the availability of optimal recruitment sites. Understanding how tree seedlings respond to warming soil temperature is critical for predicting population recruitment in the future hardwood forests of northeastern North America, particularly as environmental conditions and thus optimal microhabitat availabilities change. We examined the effect of soil warming of 5 °C during the first growing season on germination, survival, phenology, growth, and stem and root biomass allocation in Acer rubrum L. (red maple) seedlings. While there was no effect of soil warming on germination or survival, seedlings growing in warmer soils demonstrated significantly accelerated leaf expansion, delayed autumn leaf senescence, and an extended leaf production period. Further, seedlings growing in warmer soils showed larger leaf area and stem and root structures at the end of the first growing season, with no evidence of biomass allocation trade-offs. Results suggest that A.rubrum seedlings can capitalize on soil warming by adjusting leaf phenology and leaf production, resulting in a longer period of carbon uptake and leading to higher overall biomass. The absence of growth allocation trade-offs suggests that A.rubrum will respond positively to increasing soil temperatures in northeastern forests, at least in the early life stages.