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Keywords:

  • boreal forest;
  • cambium;
  • cell differentiation;
  • microcoring;
  • Picea mariana;
  • xylogenesis

Abstract

In the next century, the boreal ecosystems are projected to experience greater rates of warming than most other regions of the world. As the boreal forest constitutes a reservoir of trees of huge ecological importance and only partially known economic potential, any possible climate-related change in plant growth and dynamics has to be promptly predicted and evaluated. A model for assessing xylem phenology in black spruce [Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.] using daily temperatures and thermal thresholds was defined and applied to predict changes in onset, ending and duration of xylem growth under different warming scenarios with temperatures rising by up to 3 °C. This was achieved by collecting and analyzing a dataset obtained from a 7-year monitoring of cambium phenology and wood formation on a weekly time-scale in trees growing in four sites at different latitudes and altitudes in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region (Quebec, Canada). The onset of xylem growth occurred between mid-May and early June while the end ranged between mid-September and early October, resulting in a growing season of 101–141 days. The model predicted longer duration of xylem growth at higher temperatures, with an increase of 8–11 days/ °C, because of an earlier onset and later ending of growth. With an increase of 3 °C in the mean temperature during the year, the duration of xylem growth changed on average from 125 to 160 days. The predicted changes in cambial phenology could significantly affect future wood production of the boreal ecosystems.