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Drought and reproductive effort interact to control growth of a temperate broadleaved tree species (Fagus sylvatica)

Hacket-Pain, A and Lageard, J and Thomas, P (2017) Drought and reproductive effort interact to control growth of a temperate broadleaved tree species (Fagus sylvatica). Tree Physiology, 37 (6). pp. 744-754. ISSN 0829-318X

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Abstract

Interannual variation in radial growth is influenced by a range of physiological processes, including variation in annual reproductive effort, although the importance of reproductive allocation has rarely been quantified. In this study, we use long stand-level records of annual seed production, radial growth (tree ring width) and meteorological conditions to analyse the relative importance of summer drought and reproductive effort in controlling the growth of Fagus sylvatica L., a typical masting species. We show that both summer drought and reproductive effort (masting) influenced growth. Importantly, the effects of summer drought and masting were interactive, with the greatest reductions in growth found in years when high reproductive effort (i.e., mast years) coincided with summer drought. Conversely, mast years that coincided with non-drought summers were associated with little reduction in radial growth, as were drought years that did not coincide with mast years. The results show that the strength of an inferred trade-off between growth and reproduction in this species (the cost of reproduction) is dependent on environmental stress, with a stronger trade-off in years with more stressful growing conditions. These results have widespread implications for understanding interannual variability in growth, and observed relationships between growth and climate.

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