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Article

Ecosystem Productivity and Evapotranspiration Are Tightly Coupled in Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Plantations along the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern U.S.

1
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
2
Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
3
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
4
Bordeaux Sciences Agro, UMR 1391 INRA ISPA, CEDEX, 33175 Gradignan, France
5
Institute of Environment and Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199, USA
6
School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Eustaquio Gil-Pelegrín
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1123; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081123
Received: 21 July 2021 / Revised: 13 August 2021 / Accepted: 16 August 2021 / Published: 22 August 2021
Forest water use efficiency (WUE), the ratio of gross primary productivity (GPP) to evapotranspiration (ET), is an important variable to understand the coupling between water and carbon cycles, and to assess resource use, ecosystem resilience, and commodity production. Here, we determined WUE for managed loblolly pine plantations over the course of a rotation on the coastal plain of North Carolina in the eastern U.S. We found that the forest annual GPP, ET, and WUE increased until age ten, which stabilized thereafter. WUE varied annually (2–44%), being higher at young plantation (YP, 3.12 ± 1.20 g C kg−1 H2O d−1) compared to a mature plantation (MP, 2.92 ± 0.45 g C kg−1 H2O d−1), with no distinct seasonal patterns. Stand age was strongly correlated with ET (R2 = 0.71) and GPP (R2 = 0.64). ET and GPP were tightly coupled (R2 = 0.86). Radiation and air temperature significantly affected GPP and ET (R2 = 0.71 − R2 = 0.82) at a monthly scale, but not WUE. Drought affected WUE (R2 = 0.35) more than ET (R2 = 0.25) or GPP (R2 = 0.07). A drought enhanced GPP in MP (19%) and YP (11%), but reduced ET 7% and 19% in MP and YP, respectively, resulting in a higher WUE (27–32%). Minor seasonal and interannual variation in forest WUE of MP (age > 10) suggested that forest functioning became stable as stands matured. We conclude that carbon and water cycles in loblolly pine plantations are tightly coupled, with different characteristics in different ages and hydrologic regimes. A stable WUE suggests that the pine ecosystem productivity can be readily predicted from ET and vice versa. The tradeoffs between water and carbon cycling should be recognized in forest management to achieve multiple ecosystem services (i.e., water supply and carbon sequestration). View Full-Text
Keywords: evapotranspiration; gross primary productivity; eddy covariance; coastal plain; loblolly pine plantation; forested wetland; carbon and water coupling evapotranspiration; gross primary productivity; eddy covariance; coastal plain; loblolly pine plantation; forested wetland; carbon and water coupling
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MDPI and ACS Style

Aguilos, M.; Sun, G.; Noormets, A.; Domec, J.-C.; McNulty, S.; Gavazzi, M.; Prajapati, P.; Minick, K.J.; Mitra, B.; King, J. Ecosystem Productivity and Evapotranspiration Are Tightly Coupled in Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Plantations along the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern U.S. Forests 2021, 12, 1123. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081123

AMA Style

Aguilos M, Sun G, Noormets A, Domec J-C, McNulty S, Gavazzi M, Prajapati P, Minick KJ, Mitra B, King J. Ecosystem Productivity and Evapotranspiration Are Tightly Coupled in Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Plantations along the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern U.S. Forests. 2021; 12(8):1123. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081123

Chicago/Turabian Style

Aguilos, Maricar, Ge Sun, Asko Noormets, Jean-Christophe Domec, Steven McNulty, Michael Gavazzi, Prajaya Prajapati, Kevan J. Minick, Bhaskar Mitra, and John King. 2021. "Ecosystem Productivity and Evapotranspiration Are Tightly Coupled in Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Plantations along the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern U.S." Forests 12, no. 8: 1123. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081123

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