Climate Warming and Drought Effects on Pinus and Juniperus Species: Contrasting Drought Tolerance Traits Limit Function and Growth in Tree Seedlings



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Junipers and pines exhibit contrasting patterns of growth decline and mortality with climate change-type warming and drought; yet, the underlying physiological mechanisms are not fully understood. Does warming exacerbate the effects of drought on gas exchange physiology and growth? Do the combined effects of drought and warming differ for pines and junipers? To what extent do isohydric vs. anisohydric responses to water limitation in pines and junipers constrain net leaf CO2 exchange and plant growth response to drought and warming? To address these questions, we compared responses of leaf gas exchange and growth in seedlings of juniper (Juniperus scopulorum, J. virginiana) and pine (Pinus edulis, P. taeda) species of contrasting arid and mesic origin in a study of combined warming (ambient, +1.8 ?C) and enhanced summer drought (long-term mean, -40%). Warming and enhanced summer drought each reduced photosynthesis and growth and effects were largely independent, suggesting that warming exacerbates drought effects on growth. Enhanced summer drought and warming had distinct impacts on photosynthetic carbon gain that were differentially revealed depending upon soil water content. Warming reduced light-saturated net photosynthesis (Asat) under low soil water contents, whereas carry-over effects of drought treatment were evident under well-watered conditions. Short-term soil drying led to greater reduction of Asat in pines (-51%) rather than junipers (-30%). Under short-term water-limited conditions, Asat and gs were about two-times higher for junipers compared to pines. Relative growth rate of junipers declined with warming (-28%) and drought (-50%) treatments. In contrast, pine growth and Asat declined more with warming than drought. Only P. edulis exhibited increased mortality in response to warming and drought, reaching 75% in the combined warming and drought treatment. Diminished sensitivity of R to water limitations, coupled with steeper reductions in Asat with decreasing soil water content in isohydric pines compared to anisohydric junipers could account for the greater sensitivity of pines to warming and drought under climate change.