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Responses of Tree Transpiration and Growth to Seasonal Rainfall Redistribution in a Subtropical Evergreen Broad-Leaved Forest


Precipitation changes such as more frequent drought and altered precipitation seasonality may impose substantial impacts on the structure and functioning of forest ecosystems. A better understanding of tree responses to precipitation changes can provide fundamental information for the conservation and management of forests under future climate regimes.

We conducted a 2-year seasonal rainfall redistribution experiment to assess the responses of tree transpiration and growth to manipulated precipitation changes in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest. Three precipitation treatments were administered including a drier dry season and wetter wet season treatment (DD), an extended dry season and wetter wet season treatment (ED), and an ambient control treatment, with the total amount of annual rainfall being kept the same among the three treatments. Our results showed that the DD and ED treatments reduced daily transpiration of Schima superba by 8–16 and 13–25%, respectively. The ED treatment also reduced the DBH increment of larger S. superba individuals. In contrast, neither treatment showed obvious effects on the transpiration and DBH increment of another dominant species Michelia macclurei. S. superba had a lower transpiration-to-precipitation ratio (T/P) compared to M. macclurei and showed decreased sensitivities to total solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit under the DD and ED treatments. These results indicate the deep-rooted S. superba may be suppressed with a lower ability to obtain water and assimilate carbon compared to the shallow-rooted M. macclurei under the precipitation seasonality changes, which could potentially cause shifts in species dominance within the forest community.

This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41630752, 31130011, 41030638, 31290222) and the CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams. The research results were published online in the journal of Ecosystems.




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