Water use of dominant Pinus taeda and mid-canopy Liquidambar styraciflua and consequent implications of forest succession

Author(s): Hornslein, N.

As southeastern forests undergo succession from Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) to hardwoods, differences between water use for these different tree types could alter future conditions of water available in the ecosystem. Investigating loblolly pine and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) transpiration rates is a necessary step in order to determine if significant changes in water availability in the system will occur during succession. This will have future implications for streamflow, groundwater, and flooding. We hypothesize that sweetgum will use more water per unit sapwood area than loblolly pine and that sweetgum will be more responsive to environmental parameters including soil moisture and atmospheric vapor pressure deficit than loblolly pine. This study was performed in an aging loblolly pine plantation undergoing hardwood succession located on clay soils that experience occasional flooding in central Mississippi. The sap flow of 15 loblolly pines and 12 sweetgums were measured from July to November, 2015 using thermal dissipation probes. The trees sampled vary in size with DBH values ranging from 10.16 cm to 40.13 cm in sweetgums and 35.56 cm to 60.45 cm in loblolly pines. Additionally, environmental variables of vapor pressure deficit and soil moisture were measured to compare with tree-level water use. The slope of sap flow vs. soil moisture was higher in pines, demonstrating that they were more responsive to soil moisture than sweetgums. Both species demonstrated more significant relationships between sap flow and soil moisture than with vapor pressure deficit. On average, during the summer growing season, pine water use was approximately 571 kg m-2 sapwood area day-1 whereas sweetgum water use was approximately 793 kg m-2 sapwood area day-1. Therefore, forest succession from loblolly pine to hardwoods such as sweetgum would result in higher tree water-use leaving less available water in the system.

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