Interactive effects of nocturnal transpiration and climate change on the root hydraulic redistribution and carbon and water budgets of southern United States pine plantations
Deep root water uptake and hydraulic redistribution (HR) have been shown to play a major role in forest ecosystems during drought, but little is known about the impact of climate change, fertilization and soil characteristics on HR and its consequences on water and carbon fluxes. Using data from three mid-rotation loblolly pine plantations, and simulations with the process-based model MuSICA, this study indicated that HR can mitigate the effects of soil drying and had important implications for carbon uptake potential and net ecosystem exchange (NEE), especially when N fertilization is considered. At the coastal site (C), characterized by deep organic soil, HR increased dry season tree transpiration (T) by up to 40%, and such an increase affected NEE through major changes in gross primary productivity (GPP). Deep-rooted trees did not necessarily translate into a large volume of HR unless soil texture allowed large water potential gradients to occur, as was the case at the sandy site (S). At the Piedmont site (P) characterized by a shallow clay-loam soil, HR was low but not negligible, representing up to 10% of T. In the absence of HR, it was predicted that at the C, S and P sites, annual GPP would have been diminished by 19, 7 and 9%, respectively. Under future climate conditions HR was predicted to be reduced by up to 25% at the C site, reducing the resilience of trees to precipitation deficits. The effect of HR on T and GPP was predicted to diminish under future conditions by 12 and 6% at the C and P sites, respectively. Under future conditions, T was predicted to stay the same at the P site, but to be marginally reduced at the C site and slightly increased at the S site. Future conditions and N fertilization would decrease T by 25% at the C site, by 15% at the P site and by 8% at the S site. At the C and S sites, GPP was estimated to increase by 18% and by >70% under future conditions, respectively, with little effect of N fertilization. At the P site, future conditions would stimulate GPP by only 12%, but future conditions plus N fertilization would increase GPP by 24%. As a consequence, in all sites, water use efficiency was predicted to improve dramatically with future conditions. Modeling the effect of reduced annual precipitation indicated that limited water availability would decrease all carbon fluxes, including NEE and respiration. Our simulations highlight the interactive effects of nutrients and elevated CO2, and showed that the effect of N fertilization would be greater under future climate conditions.