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JENNIFER A. PLAUT, ENRICO A. YEPEZ, JUDSON HILL, ROBERT PANGLE, JOHN S. SPERRY, WILLIAM T. POCKMAN and NATE G. MCDOWELL Hydraulic limits preceding mortality in a piñon–juniper woodland under experimental drought Plant, Cell & Environment 35

Version of Record online: 24 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2012.02512.x

We present the first field assessment of the physiological mechanisms leading to drought-related mortality in a piñon-juniper (Pinus edulis-Juniperus monosperma) woodland. After one year of 45% precipitation removal, 67% of droughted mature piñon died with concomitant infestation by bark beetles (Ips confusus) and bluestain fungus (Ophiostoma spp.); no mortality occurred in juniper or in control piñon. Safety margins from hydraulic failure were much smaller in piñon, especially droughted piñon, which also experienced chronically low hydraulic conductance and a seven-month period of near-zero gas exchange, versus two months for surviving piñon. Hydraulic limits to gas exchange, not hydraulic failure per se, promoted drought-related mortality in piñon pine.

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