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Water Deficits in Timberline Trees in the Snowy Mountains of South-Eastern Australia

R. O. Slatyer
Oecologia
Vol. 24, No. 4 (1976), pp. 357-366
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4215295
Page Count: 10
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Water Deficits in Timberline Trees in the Snowy Mountains of South-Eastern Australia
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Abstract

Leaf water potential (ψ), leaf diffusion resistance (r1) and net photosynthesis of leaves of Eucalyptus pauciflora Sieb at timberline (2,040 m) were measured in winter and spring in the Snowy Mountains area of south-eastern Australia. Four treatments were established in a 2 × 2 factorial design involving exposure to direct sunlight, screening to reduce solar radiation by approximately 50%, exposure to direct radiant cooling at night, and screening to reduce radiant cooling. A less comprehensive set of measurements was also made in summer. No significant water deficits developed in any of the treatments, water potentials remaining above ψ = -14 bars in winter, and above ψ = -10 bars in spring, well above the levels needed to cause tissue damage in this species. These results contrast with the extreme desiccation reported in trees at timberline in other regions and suggest that winter dehydration is not an important factor in limiting tree distribution in the Snowy Mountains. Tissue damage was observed in all treatments and was most pronounced in those exposed to natural radiation frosts, in which shoot die-back occurred. Although factors other than frost incidence may have been influenced by the treatments, the results suggest that low temperatures, possibly associated with periods of clear weather and cold nights in the spring, when the tissue was no longer winter-hardy, may have been the main factors responsible.

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