Environmental controls on sap flow in a northern hardwood forest

TitleEnvironmental controls on sap flow in a northern hardwood forest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsBovard B.D, Curtis PS, Vogel CS, Su H-B, Schmid HPeter
JournalTree Physiology

Our objective was to gain a detailed understanding of how photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), vapor pressure deficit (D) and soil water interact to control transpiration in the dominant canopy species of a mixed hardwood forest in northern Lower Michigan. An improved understanding of how these environmental factors affect whole-tree water use in unmanaged ecosystems is necessary in assessing the consequences of climate change on the terrestrial water cycle. We used continuously heated sap flow sensors to measure transpiration in mature trees of four species during two successive drought events. The measurements were scaled to the stand level for comparison with eddy covariance estimates of ecosystem water flux (F w). Photosynthetically active radiation and D together explained 82% of the daytime hourly variation in plot-level transpiration, and low soil water content generally resulted in increased stomatal sensitivity to increasing D. There were also species-specific responses to drought. Quercus rubra L. showed low water use during both dry and wet conditions, and during periods of high D. Among the study species, Acer rubrum L. showed the greatest degree of stomatal closure in response to low soil water availability. Moderate increases in stomatal sensitivity to D during dry periods were observed in Populus grandidentata Michx. and Betula papyrifera Marsh. Sap flow scaled to the plot level and F w demonstrated similar temporal patterns of water loss suggesting that the mechanisms controlling sap flow of an individual tree also control ecosystem evapotranspiration. However, the absolute magnitude of scaled sap flow estimates was consistently lower than F w' We conclude that species-specific responses to PAR, D and soil water content are key elements to understanding current and future water fluxes in this ecosystem.