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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Sap flow velocities of Acer saccharum and Quercus velutina during drought: Insights and implications from a throughfall exclusion experiment in West Virginia, USA

Guillen, Luis Andres; Brzostek, Edward; McNeil, Brenden; Raczka, Nanette; Casey, Brittany; Zegre, Nicolas


Forest species composition mediates evapotranspiration and the amount of water available to human-use downstream. In the last century, the heavily forested Appalachian region has been undergoing forest mesophication which is the progressive replacement of xeric species (e.g. black oak (Quercus velutina)) by mesic species (e.g. sugar maple (Acer saccharum)). Given differences between xeric and mesic species in water use efficiency and rainfall interception losses, investigating the consequences of these species shifts on water cycles is critical to improving predictions of ecosystem responses to climate change. To meet this need, we quantified the degree to which the sap velocities of two dominant broadleaved species (sugar maple and black oak) in West Virginia, responded to ambient and experimentally altered soil moisture conditions using a throughfall exclusion experiment. We then used these data to explore how predictions of future climate under two emissions scenarios could affect forest evapotranspiration rates. Overall, we found that the maples had higher sap velocity rates than the oaks. Sap velocity in maples showed a stronger sensitivity to vapor pres-sure deficit (VPD), particularly at high levels of VPD, than sap velocity in oaks. Experimentally induced reductions in shallow soil moisture did not have a relevant impact on sap velocity. In response to future climate scenarios of in-creased vapor pressure deficits in the Central Appalachian Mountains, our results highlight the different degrees to which two important tree species will increase transpiration, and potentially reduce the water available to the heavily populated areas downstream.


Sap velocity; Transpiration; Climate change; Acer saccharum; Quercus velutina; Appalachia; Mountain water resources

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2022, volume: 850, article number: 158029
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
West Virginia University
Brzostek, Edward
West Virginia University
McNeil, Brenden
West Virginia University
Raczka, Nanette
West Virginia University
Casey, Brittany
West Virginia University
Zegre, Nicolas
West Virginia University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

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