Differential effects of drought on nonstructural carbohydrate storage in seedlings and mature trees of four species in a subtropical forest

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Zhang, Peipei
Zhou, Xuhui
Fu, Yuling
Shao, Junjiong
Zhou, Lingyan
Li, Songsong
Zhou, Guiyao
Hu, Zhenhong
Hu, Jiaqi
Bai, Shahla Hosseini
McDowell, Nate G
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Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) play important roles in forest vulnerability to climate change, especially under increasing drought intensity and frequency. Understanding NSC dynamics is essential for accurately predicting the resistance and resilience of forests in response to drought. However, our knowledge of NSC responses to drought is still limited due to the lack of research in trees of different life stages. In this study, we conducted a throughfall exclusion experiment (TFE) with four subtropical evergreen tree species to examine drought effects on NSC in mature trees and understory seedlings. Our results showed the differential effects of drought on NSC dynamics of understory seedlings and mature trees. In the TFE experiment, mature trees of all four species were relatively homoeostatic with the insignificantly changed NSC pools, photosynthesis, and growth under the drought treatment compared to the control. In contrast, understory seedlings displayed significant decreases in total NSC and soluble sugars (−14.70 ± 3.66% and −16.93 ± 3.85%, respectively) with the exception of Lithocarpus glaber (L. glaber). The seedlings of L. glaber with the highest hydraulic resistance maintained or slightly increased NSC and its components in response to drought. Our study highlights the importance of life stage in assessing drought effects of trees on NSC storage and then forest C cycling, which could be incorporated into the dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) to better understand drought effects on forest C balance in the future.

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Forest Ecology and Management
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Environmental sciences
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Agricultural, veterinary and food sciences
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Subtropical evergreen trees
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Zhang, P; Zhou, X; Fu, Y; Shao, J; Zhou, L; Li, S; Zhou, G; Hu, Z; Hu, J; Bai, SH; McDowell, NG, Differential effects of drought on nonstructural carbohydrate storage in seedlings and mature trees of four species in a subtropical forest, Forest Ecology and Management, 2020, 469, pp. 118159