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Canopy transpiration of a Larix sibirica and Pinus sylvestris forest in Central Siberia

Josef Urban, Alexey V. Rubtsov, Anastasiya V. Urban, Alexander V. Shashkin, Vera E. Benkova
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2019 v.271 pp. 64-72
Larix sibirica, Pinus sylvestris, boreal forests, canopy, ecosystems, environmental factors, evapotranspiration, even-aged stands, global warming, growing season, heat transfer, leaf area index, sap flow, snowmelt, soil water, spring, transpiration, trees, vapor pressure deficit, water content, Siberia
Russian boreal forests represent the largest forested region on Earth and comprise one-fifth of the world's forest cover. The two most common genera in Siberia are Larix and Pinus, which together cover more than 80% of the region’s forested area. One observable ongoing effect of climate warming is that natural populations of Siberian larch are gradually being replaced by Scots pine. The present work focuses on comparing effects of environmental variables on sap flow density in two even-aged stands of Larix sibirica and Pinus sylvestris. While the two study stands were identical in age (49 years) with similar basal areas and leaf area index, they exhibited very different transpiration rates and response mechanisms to environmental signals. Stand water use was higher for larch than it was for pine, even though transpiration for deciduous larch trees occurred over shorter time periods. The cumulative annual transpiration of the larch stand was 284 ± 4 mm measured over two consecutive growing seasons (2015–2016), while for pine this was 20% lower. Seasonal transpiration accounted for 50% and 40% of the reference evapotranspiration and 91% and 67% of growing season precipitation for larch and pine, respectively. Water stored in soil provided an important source of water for transpiration, observed as roughly 100 mm, which was then replenished from snowmelt the following spring. The greatest difference between two species related to how well they controlled transpiration, notably in the context of high vapor pressure deficit; under these conditions, pine maintained greater control over transpiration than larch. For all soil moisture levels measured, larch transpired more water than pine. Importantly, our results point to potential future effects of global warming, most notably an increasing decline of larch forests, changes in the ratio between latent and sensitive heat fluxes, and significant modifications in ecosystem water availability.