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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Tree-ring isotopic composition reveals intraspecific variation in water use efficiency of Ait. provenances grown in common gardens

Antonucci, Serena; Marshall, John; Santopuoli, Giovanni; Marchetti, Marco; Tognetti, Roberto


Given the impacts of climate change on forest resources and considering the slowness of evolutionary processes in trees, a need arises to understand the interplay between tree species adaptation to climate, genetic variation, and their impact on tree growth and productivity. Broadening knowledge of the capacity of tree populations to respond to climate-related disturbances is a prerequisite for the development of resilience strategies, including assisted migration and climate-smart forestry. This study tests the physiological ability of different maritime pine provenances, comparing Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia, and Tuscany) and Atlantic (Portugal) provenances, to adapt to progressively drier conditions that have occurred in the last thirty years. Four provenance trials with randomized blocks of the five maritime pine provenances were used as test sites in Sardinia (Italy). Wood cores were collected from the 40-year-old plants. Cores were split into five-year segments to determine provenance-related variations in carbon and oxygen stable isotopes and provide information on long-term patterns in intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE). The provenance x site interaction was the most important source of variation, meaning that the genotypes responded differently to the planting sites. Considering the main effects, both genotype and environmental conditions at the planting sites influenced stable isotope composition in tree rings. This suggests that iWUE was determined by phenotypic plasticity that differed among genotypes. In contrast, provenance responses were stable with time, and the provenance x site interaction was stable across time periods. These findings suggest that provenance selection to improve iWUE in maritime pine may need to consider site conditions but point more to soil conditions than to climate. In any case, they limit our ability to recommend maritime pine provenances based on iWUE until the missing site factors can be identified.


Climate change; Mediterranean pines; Natural disturbances; Provenance trials; Tree rings

Published in

Trees - Structure and Function
2023, Volume: 37, number: 6, pages: 1767-1780

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Climate Research
    Forest Science

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