Water/nutrient interactions affecting the productivity of stands of Pinus radiata

R. E. McMurtrie, M. L. Benson, S. Linder, S. W. Running, T. Talsma, W. J.B. Crane, B. J. Myers

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The accumulation of above-ground biomass and the seasonal patterns of leaf-area development, foliar nutrient concentrations and tree and soil water-status have been measured for fertilised, irrigated, and control stands of Pinus radiata D. Don growing on a low-productivity site, average annual precipitation of 790 mm, near Canberra in southeastern Australia. In the second growing-season after treatments commenced, projected leaf-area index reached peak values of 7 on the irrigated/fertilised stands compared with approximately 5 on the other stands. Average canopy nitrogen concentration (dry-weight basis) varied across the treatments from 9 to 17 mg g-1. Measurements of soil and tree water-status over a 2-year period indicated that stands which were not irrigated experienced summer droughts of up to 4 months duration. Annual volume production measured over the 2-year period ranged from 17 to 45 m3 ha-1. The extent to which this variation could be attributed to differences in leaf area, rats of photosynthesis, duration of the period of positive net photosynthesis, and hence growth, was analysed in terms of a process-based model of stand growth dependent on climate and soil water-balance. Annual canopy net photosynthesis simulated by the model ranged from 18 t carbon ha-1 for the control stand to 38 t ha-1 for the irrigated/fertilised stands. Simulations indicated that 67% of this difference could be attributed to the role of irrigation in extending the period of active growth. The additional leaf area carried by the irrigated/fertilised stands contributed a further 23%, while differences in rates of photosynthesis, related to nitrogen nutrition, explained the remaining 10%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Feb 1990


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