Climate change significantly affects forest ecosystems. However, little is known about whether non-native and native tree species show similar responses to global warming.
In view of this, Dr. SONG Lining and Prof. ZHU Jiaojun from the Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE) of Chinese Academy of Sciences measured and compared radial growth (basal area increment, BAI) and tree-ring carbon isotope composition (δ13C) between two non-native tree species (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica and Populus × xiaozhuanica) and two native tree species (Pinus tabuliformis and Ulmus pumila) growing in a semiarid sandy region of China, over the past 30 years (1985–2014).
The results showed different trends in the basal area increment (BAI) and tree-ring stable carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) of two non-native and two native tree species during the warming and drying periods from 1985 to 2014. The BAI of non-native tree species was stable, whereas that of the native tree species exhibited a significant increase. A significant increase in tree-ring δ13Ccorr (corrected for atmospheric changes in δ13C) for non-native tree species indicated increasing water stress. The intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE, derived from tree-ring δ13C) of both non-native and native tree species increased significantly.
However, the magnitude of the increase in iWUE was higher in non-native tree species than in native tree species, indicating that non-native tree species suffered stronger water stress. Increasing iWUE but no increase in BAI for non-native tree species suggested that water stress reduced stomatal conductance and, consequently, reduced carbon uptake. In contrast, increased iWUE accompanied by an enhanced BAI for native tree species indicated an increase in photosynthetic capacity induced by CO2 fertilization.
These findings suggest that non-native tree species would experience greater mortality under extreme drought conditions once water stress passes a physiological threshold. However, native tree species would suffer only slightly due to benefiting from CO2 fertilization.
This work was financially supported by the grants from the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS, National Nature Science Foundation of China, Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS and Forestry Soft Science Research Project of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The study entitled "Divergent growth responses to warming and drying climates between native and non？native tree species in Northeast China" was published in Trees - Structure and Function.