Get access

Seasonal photosynthetic responses of European oaks to drought and elevated daytime temperature


  • Editor
    H. Rennenberg

M. Arend, Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.


Oaks are commonly considered as drought- and heat-tolerant trees that might benefit from a warmer and drier climate. Their tolerance to drought has been frequently studied in the past, whereas studies dealing with elevated temperature or its combination with drought are very limited in number. In this study we investigated seasonal photosynthetic patterns in three European oak species (Quercus robur, Q. petraea, Q. pubescens) exposed in lysimeter-based open-top chambers (OTC) to elevated daytime temperature, drought and their combination. Stomatal and non-stomatal traits of photosynthesis were followed over an entire growing season and related to changes in daytime temperature, soil moisture and pre-dawn leaf water potential (ΨPD). Elevated daytime temperature enhanced net photosynthesis (PN) in a season-dependent manner, with higher mid-summer rates than in controls exposed to ambient temperature. Drought imposed in early and mid-summer reduced the soil moisture content and caused a gradual decline in ΨPD, stomatal conductance (gS) and PN. Drought effects on ΨPD and PN were exacerbated when drought was combined with elevated daytime temperature. In general, PN tended to be more affected by low soil moisture content or low ΨPD in Q. robur than in Q. petraea and Q. pubescens. Non-stomatal limitations may have contributed to the drought-induced decline of PN in Q. robur, as indicated by a down-regulation of PSII photochemistry (FV/FM) and decreased chlorophyll content. Taken together, our findings show that European oaks may benefit from elevated temperature, but detrimental effects can be expected when elevated temperature occurs simultaneously with drought.