Forests worldwide have been recently affected by severe decline and mortality, while our understanding about forest decline across spatial scale is still limited. In this work, we study how Quercus suber trees adjust their physiology, in terms of water use efficiency and secondary growth, to pathogen-induced oak decline at the whole-tree, local and landscape scales. This work was carried out in Mediterranean mixed forests where their dominant key species Q. suber is affected by a severe decline and mortality induced by the exotic soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi. Significant differences were not observed between defoliated and healthy trees, either in terms of water use efficiency or growth at the whole-tree scale. We found that limiting conditions, such as low soil depth and high pathogen abundance, induced trees to higher water use efficiency at local and landscape scales. Overall our findings point out that Q. suber trees subjected to soil drought and root pathogens increase water use efficiency to some extent, while this response might not be enough for the trees to overcome the physiological stress associated with the pathogen-induced dieback. We discuss the complex way by which adult Q. suber trees physiologically respond to P. cinnamomi-induced mortality, improving our understanding of the likely consequences of chronic oak decline in the future.
European Journal of Forest Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 17, 2017
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