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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-131
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-131
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 28 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Bottomland hardwood forest growth and stress response to hydroclimatic variation: Evidence from dendrochronology and tree-ring δ13C values

Ajinkya G. Deshpande1, Thomas W. Boutton1, Charles W. Lafon2, and Georgianne W. Moore1 Ajinkya G. Deshpande et al.
  • 1Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
  • 2Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

Abstract. Wetland forests around the world have been reduced to a small proportion of their original expanse due to changing climatic conditions and intensification of human land use activities. As a case in point, the Columbia bottomland hardwood forests along the Brazos-Colorado Coastal Basin on the Gulf coast of Texas are currently threatened by an increasingly erratic hydroclimate in the form of both extreme floods as well as droughts, and by urban expansion. In this study, we use dendrochronology and tree-ring carbon isotopes to understand the effect of changing hydroclimatic conditions on the functional attributes of these forests. We examined tree-rings of Quercus nigra at four sites within the Columbia bottomlands, of which one site experiences frequent and prolonged flooding, while the other three are less flood-prone. The objectives of this study were to: (i) understand the impact of hydroclimatic variation on growth rates using tree-ring width analysis, (ii) assess the magnitude of physiological stress inflicted by extreme hydroclimatic conditions using tree-ring δ13C measurements, and (iii) evaluate the relationship between physiological stress and growth inhibition. Growth rates across the landscape were influenced most strongly by mid-growing season climate, while early-growing season climate inflicted the greatest physiological stress. Neither growth inhibition nor changes in δ13C values were observed in trees at the wetter site under extreme hydrologic conditions such as droughts or floods. In addition, trees at the wet site were less sensitive to precipitation and showed no response to higher temperatures. In contrast, trees of the three drier sites experienced growth inhibition and had higher tree-ring δ13C values during dry periods. Our results indicate higher physiological resilience in trees growing under wetter conditions. Management and conservation strategies dependent on site-specific conditions are critical for the health of these wetland forests under a rapidly changing hydroclimate. This study provides the first dendrochronological baseline for this region and thresholds of optimum conditions for the growth and health of these forests which can assist management decisions such as streamflow regulation and conservation plans.

Ajinkya G. Deshpande et al.

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Tree_rings_Biogeosciences A. G. Deshpande https://doi.org/10.18738/T8/6WJW0J

Ajinkya G. Deshpande et al.

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Short summary
Wetland forests in the southern US are threatened by a changing climate and human-induced pressures. We used tree-ring widths and C isotopes as indicators of forest growth and physiological stress, respectively, and compared these to past climate data. We observed that vegetation growing in wetter patches is more physiologically resilient, while vegetation in the drier patches is susceptible to stress under unfavorable environmental conditions, highlighting the importance of optimal wetness.
Wetland forests in the southern US are threatened by a changing climate and human-induced...
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