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Growth rate reduction causes a decline in the annual incremental trunk growth in masting Fagus crenata trees

Kabeya, Daisuke, Inagaki, Yoshiyuki, Noguchi, Kyotaro, Han, Qingmin
Tree physiology 2017 v.37 no.10 pp. 1444-1452
Bayesian theory, Fagus crenata, branches, canopy, leaves, phenology, reproduction, resource allocation, seed maturation, tree physiology, tree trunk, trees
Tree trunk annual increments are markedly reduced in mast years. There are two hypotheses that could explain the mechanism for this phenomenon: (1) a reduction in the duration of growth due to switching the resource allocation from somatic growth to seed production; (2) reduction of growth rate due to resources being shared between somatic growth and reproduction simultaneously. In this study, we aimed to test these hypotheses in Fagus crenata Blume from the point of view of resource allocation. The radial growth patterns in F. crenata during a year without reproduction (2014) and a masting year (2015) were monitored using a digital dendrometer. At the same time, shoot growth patterns were monitored by sampling branches from the top of the canopy. Data obtained using the digital dendrometer were fitted to a sigmoidal function, and the parameters of the function were evaluated with a hierarchal Bayesian approach; estimated parameters were used to represent the properties of trunk growth phenology. Trunk growth started synchronously just after leaf unfurling in both mass-fruiting (F₁₅) and limited-fruiting (NF₁₅) trees in 2014 and 2015. Reproduction reduced the growth rate in 2015. This was due to the resources being allocated for the development of cupules and for formation of relatively thick branches, both of which occurred simultaneously with trunk growth. There was no clear difference in the duration of radial growth between F₁₅ and NF₁₅ trees in the 2 years, although seed maturation started after trunk growth ceased. As a result, the annual trunk radius increment was reduced in the F₁₅ trees in 2015. These results suggested that reduction of radial growth rate (Hypothesis 2) caused the reduction in annual trunk increment of reproducing trees of this species.