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Keywords:

  • conifers;
  • intra-annual growth;
  • photoperiod;
  • temperature;
  • wood;
  • xylogenesis

Summary

  • Intra-annual radial growth rates and durations in trees are reported to differ greatly in relation to species, site and environmental conditions. However, very similar dynamics of cambial activity and wood formation are observed in temperate and boreal zones.
  • • 
    Here, we compared weekly xylem cell production and variation in stem circumference in the main northern hemisphere conifer species (genera Picea, Pinus, Abies and Larix) from 1996 to 2003. Dynamics of radial growth were modeled with a Gompertz function, defining the upper asymptote (A), x-axis placement (β) and rate of change (κ).
  • • 
    A strong linear relationship was found between the constants β and κ for both types of analysis. The slope of the linear regression, which corresponds to the time at which maximum growth rate occurred, appeared to converge towards the summer solstice.
  • • 
    The maximum growth rate occurred around the time of maximum day length, and not during the warmest period of the year as previously suggested. The achievements of photoperiod could act as a growth constraint or a limit after which the rate of tree-ring formation tends to decrease, thus allowing plants to safely complete secondary cell wall lignification before winter.