Declining hydraulic performances and low carbon investments in tree rings predate Scots pine drought-induced mortality

Ana Maria Hereş, Jesús Julio Camarero, Bernat C. López, Jordi Martínez-Vilalta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Key message: The retrospective analysis of wood anatomical features evidences how a long-term deterioration of hydraulic performance and carbon use portend drought-induced mortality in Scots pine.Abstract: Widespread episodes of drought-induced tree mortality are predicted to become more frequent as climate becomes warmer and drier. Nevertheless, growth trends and their links to changes in wood anatomy before tree dies are still poorly understood. Wood anatomical features provide valuable information that can be extracted to infer the mechanisms leading to tree death. In this study, we characterize drought-induced mortality affecting two Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) sites (Prades and Arcalís) located in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula. Co-occurring now-dead and living Scots pine trees were sampled and their wood anatomical features were measured and compared. We aimed to detect differences in anatomical features between living and dead trees, and to infer past physiological performances that might have determined their subsequent death or survival. Now-dead trees showed lower tracheid and resin duct production, and smaller radial lumen diameters than co-occurring living trees. At the more xeric Prades site, these anatomical differences were larger and chronic, i.e. were observed over the three studied decades, whilst they were less pronounced at the other, more mesic Arcalís site, where tree mortality episodes were more recent. This indicates that dead trees’ hydraulic conductivity was severely affected and that carbon investment in xylem formation and resin duct production was constrained prior to tree death. Our findings show that both hydraulic deterioration and low carbon allocation to xylem formation were associated to drought-induced mortality in Scots pine. Nevertheless, the temporal dynamics of these processes differed between populations as a function of site climatic conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1750
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Drought
  • Mortality
  • Scots pine
  • Tracheid
  • Tree ring
  • Wood anatomy


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