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Article alert: Response of climate-growth relationships and water use efficiency to thinning in a Pinus nigra afforestation

by: Ulla Vänttinen

Martín-Benito, D., Del Río, M., Heinrich, I., Helle, G., Cañellas, I., 2010. Response of climate-growth relationships and water use efficiency to thinning in a Pinus nigra afforestation. Forest Ecology and Management 259 (5), pp. 967-975.

Thinning is the main forestry measure to increase tree growth by reducing stand tree density and competition for resources. A thinning experiment was established in 1993 on a 32-year-old Pinus nigra Arn. stand in central Spain. The response of growth, climate-growth relationships and intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEi) to a stand density reduction were compared between moderate thinned plots and a control plot by a combined analysis of basal area increments (BAI), and C and O stable isotope ratios (δ13Cc and δ18Oc). BAI in the control plot showed a decreasing trend that was avoided by thinning in the thinned plot. Thinning also partially buffered tree-ring response to climate and trees were less sensitive to precipitation although more sensitive to temperature. Δ13Cc in the thinned plot was not modified indicating that stomatal conductance (g) and photosynthetic capacity (A) did not change or change in the same direction. However, δ18Oc decreased in the control plot (unrelated to δ18O of precipitation) but not in the thinned plot, suggesting a relative increase of temperature and irradiance and/or a decrease of air humidity after reducing the density consistent with an increase in A, g and BAI. As WUEi did not increase in the thinned plot, faster growth in this plot was caused by higher abundance of resources per tree. The trend of WUEi in both plots indicated low-moderate CO2-induced improvements. Thinning might be a useful adaptation measure against climate change in these plantations reducing their vulnerability to droughts. However, because WUEi was not affected, the positive growth response might be limited if droughts and warming continue and certain thresholds are exceeded.

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