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Forests 2017, 8(3), 91; doi:10.3390/f8030091

Phenotypic Plasticity Explains Response Patterns of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Saplings to Nitrogen Fertilization and Drought Events

1
Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany
2
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Ecology, University of León, 24071 León, Spain
3
Institute of General Ecology and Environmental Protection, Technische Universität Dresden, 01735 Tharandt, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 February 2017 / Revised: 7 March 2017 / Accepted: 14 March 2017 / Published: 20 March 2017
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Abstract

Abstract: Climate and atmospheric changes affect forest ecosystems worldwide, but little is known about the interactive effects of global change drivers on tree growth. In the present study, we analyzed single and combined effects of nitrogen (N) fertilization and drought events (D) on the growth of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) saplings in a greenhouse experiment. We quantified morphological and physiological responses to treatments for one‐ and two‐year‐old plants. N fertilization increased the saplings’ aboveground biomass investments, making them more susceptible to D treatments. This was reflected by the highest tissue dieback in combined N and D treatments and a significant N × D interaction for leaf δ13C signatures. Thus, atmospheric N deposition can strengthen the drought sensitivity of beech saplings. One‐year‐old plants reacted more sensitively to D treatments than two‐year‐old plants (indicated by D‐induced shifts in leaf δ13C signatures of one‐year‐old and two‐year‐old plants by +0.5‰ and −0.2‰, respectively), attributable to their higher shoot:root‐ratios (1.8 and 1.2, respectively). In summary, the saplings’ treatment responses were determined by their phenotypic plasticity (shifts in shoot:root‐ratios), which in turn was a function of both the saplings’ age (effects of allometric growth trajectories = apparent plasticity) and environmental impacts (effects of N fertilization = plastic allometry). View Full-Text
Keywords: allometric growth; apparent plasticity; δ13C; global change; plastic allometry; shoot:root ratio allometric growth; apparent plasticity; δ13C; global change; plastic allometry; shoot:root ratio
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Dziedek, C.; Fichtner, A.; Calvo, L.; Marcos, E.; Jansen, K.; Kunz, M.; Walmsley, D.; Von Oheimb, G.; Härdtle, W. Phenotypic Plasticity Explains Response Patterns of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) Saplings to Nitrogen Fertilization and Drought Events. Forests 2017, 8, 91.

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