Water uptake and retention by trees affects their ability to cope with drought, as well as influences ground water recharge and stream flow. Historically, water has not often been limiting in Eastern U.S. forests. As a result, very little work has been done to understand the basics of timing of water use by vegetation in these systems. As droughts are projected to increase in length and severity in future decades, this focus is increasingly important, particularly for informing hydrologic models.
We used deuterium tracer and sap flux techniques to study tree water transport on a forested ridge top with shallow soil in central Pennsylvania. Three trees of each of the species, Acer saccharum, Carya tomentosa, Quercus prinus, and Quercus rubrum were accessed by tree climbing and scaffolding towers. We hypothesized that contrasting vessel size of the tree species would affect the efficiency of water transport (tracer velocity) and contrasting tree size would affect tracer storage as estimated by tracer residence times.
Trees were injected with deuterated water in July 2012. Leaves were sampled 15 times over 35 days, initially daily for the first week, then at regular intervals afterwards. The tracer arrived in the canopy of the study trees between 1 and 7 days after injection, traveling at a velocity of 2 to 19 m d-1. The tracer residence time was between 7 and 33 days. Although there was variation in tracer velocity and residence time in individual trees, there were no significant differences among wood types or species (P>0.05). The general patterns in timing of water use were similar to other studies on angiosperm trees in tropical and arid ecosystems. There was no evidence of longer residence times in the larger trees. Sap flux-based estimates of sap velocity were much lower than tracer estimates, which was consistent with other studies. Levels of sap flux and midday water potential measurements suggested that the trees were water-stressed.
We observed relatively rapid water uptake and tree water storage limited to about a month in duration. These findings are necessary for modeling of hydrologic parameters that are influenced by tree water age. They also indicate that trees on shallow soil in this catchment may be at risk if droughts lasting over a month occur more frequently in future years.
Katie Gaines • Frederick Meinzer • Christopher Duffy • Evan Thomas • David Eissenstat (2014): B22A-01 Rapid Water Uptake and Limited Storage Capacity at Height of Growing Season in Four Temperate Tree Species in a Central Pennsylvania Catchment . 2014 AGU Annual Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, Dec 15-19th.
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.