Respiration acclimation contributes to high carbon-use efficiency in a seasonally dry pine forest


Dan Yakir, tel. +97289342549, fax +97289344124, e-mail:


Predictions of warming and drying in the Mediterranean and other regions require quantifying of such effects on ecosystem carbon dynamics and respiration. Long-term effects can only be obtained from forests in which seasonal drought is a regular feature. We carried out measurements in a semiarid Pinus halepensis (Aleppo pine) forest of aboveground respiration rates of foliage, Rf, and stem, Rt over 3 years. Component respiration combined with ongoing biometric, net CO2 flux [net ecosystem productivity (NEP)] and soil respiration measurements were scaled to the ecosystem level to estimate gross and net primary productivity (GPP, NPP) and carbon-use efficiency (CUE=NPP/GPP) using 6 years data. GPP, NPP and NEP were, on average, 880, 350 and 211 g C m−2 yr−1, respectively. The above ground respiration made up half of total ecosystem respiration but CUE remained high at 0.4. Large seasonal variations in both Rf and Rt were not consistently correlated with seasonal temperature trends. Seasonal adjustments of respiration were observed in both the normalized rate (R20) and short-term temperature sensitivity (Q10), resulting in low respiration rates during the hot, dry period. Rf in fully developed needles was highest over winter–spring, and foliage R20 was correlated with photosynthesis over the year. Needle growth occurred over summer, with respiration rates in developing needles higher than the fully developed foliage at most times. Rt showed a distinct seasonal maximum in May irrespective of year, which was not correlated to the winter stem growth, but could be associated with phenological drivers such as carbohydrate re-mobilization and cambial activity. We show that in a semiarid pine forest photosynthesis and stem growth peak in (wet) winter and leaf growth in (dry) summer, and associated adjustments of component respiration, dominated by those in R20, minimize annual respiratory losses. This is likely a key for maintaining high CUE and ecosystem productivity similar to much wetter sites, and could lead to different predictions of the effect of warming and drying climate on productivity of pine forests than based on short-term droughts.