A Six-Year Study Of Sapling And Large-Tree Growth And Mortality Responses To Natural And Induced Variability In Precipitation And Throughfall

  • Sites: US-WBW
  • Publication Type: JOUR
  • Authors: Hanson, P. J.; Todd, D. E.; Amthor, J. S.

  • Global climatic change may cause changes in regional precipitation that have important implications for forest growth in the southern United States. In 1993, a stand-level experiment was initiated on Walker Branch Watershed, Tennessee, to study the sensitivity of forest saplings and large trees to changes in soil water content. Soil water content was manipulated by gravity-driven transfer of precipitation throughfall from a dry treatment plot (−33%) to a wet treatment plot (+33%). A control plot was included. Each plot was 6400 m2. Measurements of stem diameter and observations of mortality were made on large trees and saplings of Acer rubrum L., Cornus florida L., Liriodendron tulipifera L., Nyssa sylvatica Marsh, Quercus alba L. and Quercus prinus L. every 2 weeks during six growing seasons. Saplings of C. florida and A. rubrum grew faster and mortality was less on the wet plot compared with the dry and control plots, through 6 years of soil water manipulation. Conversely, diameter growth of large trees was unaffected by the treatments. However, tree diameter growth averaged across treatments was affected by year-to-year changes in soil water status. Growth in wet years was as much as 2–3 times greater than in dry years. Relationships between tree growth, phenology and soil water potential were consistent among species and quantitative expressions were developed for application in models. These field growth data indicate that differences in seasonal patterns of rainfall within and between years have greater impacts on growth than percentage changes in rainfall applied to all rainfall events.


  • Journal: Tree Physiology
  • Funding Agency: —
  • Citation Information:
  • Volume: 21
  • No: 6
  • Pages: 345-358
  • Publication Year: 2001/04/01
  • DOI: 10.1093/treephys/21.6.345