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Comparing Primary and Secondary Growth of Co-Occurring Deciduous and Evergreen Conifers in an Alpine Habitat

Zhang, Yiping, Jiang, Yuan, Wen, Yan, Ding, Xinyuan, Wang, Biao, Xu, Junliang
Forests 2019 v.10 no.7
Larix gmelinii var. principis-rupprechtii, Picea, air temperature, branches, climate change, cold, conifers, forest ecosystems, forest stands, growing season, habitats, leaves, phenology, prediction, soil temperature, soil water content, stand structure, stem elongation, treeline, xylem, China
Investigations on primary and secondary growth in co-occurring species will aid in assessment of the physiological adaptation of species and the prediction of forest stand structure dynamics. To explore the correlation and coordination between primary and secondary growth, we monitored the leaf phenology, shoot elongation, and stem growth of co-occurring Larix principis-rupprechtii Mayr. and Picea meyeri Rehd. et Wils. in an alpine habitat, Luya Mountain (North-Central China), during the growing season of 2014. We measured bud development on terminal branches three days per week by direct observations and intra-annual stem xylem formation at weekly intervals by the microcores method. The onset sequence of three organs was the needle, shoot, and stem, without species-specific differences. Needles appeared one month earlier than stem growth in larch, while it was only one week earlier in spruce. The duration of needle growth was the shortest, followed by the shoot and stem. The timing of primary growth (i.e., onset, end, and maximum growth rate) between the two species was asynchronous, but secondary growth was synchronic with the same date of the maximum growth rate occurrence, potentially indicating species competition for resources. Unlike larch, spruce staggered growth peaks among different organs, which may effectively mitigate trees’ internal competition for resources. Soil temperature was positively correlated with both shoot and stem growth in the two species, whereas air temperature and soil water content were positively correlated with needle growth only in larch. Therefore, it can be inferred that the spruce will probably outcompete the larch at cold alpine treeline sites due to its high adaptability to acquiring and allocating resources. These results provide insight into the potential physiological correlation between primary and secondary growth and allow better prediction of future climate change effects on forest ecosystem productivity.