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Keywords:

  • Adaptation;
  • drought;
  • environmental changes;
  • global warming;
  • non-structural carbohydrates;
  • oak;
  • soluble sugars;
  • starch

Abstract

Global warming and shortage of water have been evidenced in the recent past and are predicted for the future. Climate change will inevitably have considerable impact on plant physiology, growth, productivity and forest ecosystem functions. The present study determined the effects of simulated daytime air warming (+1 to 1.5 °C during the growing season), drought (−40% and −57% of mean precipitation of 728 mm during the 2007 and 2008 growing season, respectively) and their combination, on leaf nitrogen (N) and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) of two Quercus species (Q. robur and Q. petraea) and provenances (two provenances for each species) grown in two soil types in Switzerland across two treatment years, to test the hypothesis that leaf N and NSC in the more water-sensitive species (Q. robur) and provenances (originating from water-rich locations) will more strongly respond to global warming and water deficit, compared to those in the more drought-tolerant species (Q. petraea) or provenances. No species- and provenance-specific responses in leaf N and NSC to the climate treatment were found, indicating that the results failed to support our hypothesis. The between-species variation of leaf N and NSC concentrations mainly reflected differences in biology of the two species, and the between-provenance variation of N and NSC concentrations apparently mirrored the climate of their origins. Hence, we conclude that (i) the two Quercus species studied are somewhat insensitive, due to their distribution covering a wide geographical and climate range, to moderate climate change within Switzerland, and (ii) a moderate global warming of B1 scenario (IPCC 2007) will not, or at least less, negatively affect the N and carbon physiology in Q. robur and Q. petraea.