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Open AccessArticle

Artificial Top Soil Drought Hardly Affects Water Use of Picea abies and Larix decidua Saplings at the Treeline in the Austrian Alps

1
Department of Alpine Timberline Ecophysiology, Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (BFW), Rennweg 1, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
2
Department of Botany, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Sternwartestraße15, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
3
Naturwerkstatt Tirol, itworks Personalservice & Beratung, gemeinnützige GmbH, 6511 Zams, Austria
4
Department of Ecology, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Sternwartestraße15, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(9), 777; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10090777
Received: 2 August 2019 / Revised: 21 August 2019 / Accepted: 3 September 2019 / Published: 6 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Alpine and Polar Treelines in a Changing Environment)
This study quantified the effect of shallow soil water availability on sap flow density (Qs) of 4.9 ± 1.5 m tall Picea abies and Larix decidua saplings at treeline in the Central Tyrolean Alps, Austria. We installed a transparent roof construction around three P. abies and three L. decidua saplings to prevent precipitation from reaching the soil surface without notably influencing the above ground microclimate. Three additional saplings from each species served as controls in the absence of any manipulation. Roofing significantly reduced soil water availability at a 5–10 cm soil depth, while soil temperature was not affected. Sap flow density (using Granier-type thermal dissipation probes) and environmental parameters were monitored throughout three growing seasons. In both species investigated, three years of rain exclusion did not considerably reduce Qs. The lack of a significant Qs-soil water content correlation in P. abies and L. decidua saplings indicates sufficient water supply, suggesting that whole plant water loss of saplings at treeline primarily depends on evaporative demand. Future work should test whether the observed drought resistance of saplings at the treeline also holds for adult trees. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; experimental rain exclusion; plant water availability; soil drought; treeline; sap flow; Picea abies; Larix decidua climate change; experimental rain exclusion; plant water availability; soil drought; treeline; sap flow; Picea abies; Larix decidua
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Wieser, G.; Oberhuber, W.; Gruber, A.; Oberleitner, F.; Hasibeder, R.; Bahn, M. Artificial Top Soil Drought Hardly Affects Water Use of Picea abies and Larix decidua Saplings at the Treeline in the Austrian Alps. Forests 2019, 10, 777.

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