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Fertilization increased leaf water use efficiency and growth of Pinus taeda subjected to five years of throughfall reduction

Samuelson, Lisa J., Kane, Michael B., Markewitz, Daniel, Teskey, Robert O., Akers, Madison K., Stokes, Tom A., Pell, Charles J., Qi, Ji
Canadian journal of forest research 2018 v.48 no.2 pp. 227-236
Pinus taeda, allometry, drought, growing season, leaf area index, leaves, plantations, sapwood, stomatal conductance, surface area, throughfall, tree height, water potential, water use efficiency, Southeastern United States
High productivity of fertilized loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantations in the southern United States is related to increased leaf area index (LAI), but higher evaporative leaf surface area may increase drought vulnerability. To determine if the benefits of fertilization are affected by water availability or the effects of drought are exacerbated by fertilization, the interactive effects of throughfall treatment (ambient throughfall versus throughfall reduction) and fertilization treatment (no fertilization versus one-time fertilization) on a loblolly pine plantation were examined over five growing seasons. Enhancement of LAI and growth from fertilization was unaffected by throughfall treatment, and reductions in LAI, tree height, and stand volume increment in response to throughfall reduction were unaffected by fertilization treatment. Leaf-level stomatal conductance (gS) was decreased and water use efficiency was increased by fertilization and by throughfall reduction. Lower gS was associated with decreased leaf predawn water potential in response to throughfall reduction. In contrast, lower gₛ in response to fertilization was associated with a reduction in the hydraulic allometry index, a measure of the ability of sapwood to supply water to leaves. These results suggest that fertilization may enhance LAI and growth even under mild or moderate drought.