Seasonal variations in tree water use and physiology correlate with soil salinity and soil water content in remnant woodlands on saline soils

Catriona M O Macinnis-Ng*, Melanie J B Zeppel, Anthony R. Palmer, Derek Eamus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ecophysiological studies of remnant woodlands in saline environments are scarce. We investigated seasonal fluctuations in soil water and salinity together with leaf and branch traits (area-based maximum assimilation (Amax), foliar nitrogen, specific leaf area (SLA) and Huber value (Hv)) and sap velocities of Eucalyptus macrorhyncha at four semi-arid sites in south-eastern Australia. Summer and winter soil salinities (10 cm depth) were 15-35 dS m-1 and 8-10 dS m-1 respectively. Gravimetric soil water content in the upper 20 cm was 2-5% in summer and 7-23% in winter, resulting in a significant inverse correlation between soil water and soil salinity. We found significant correlations between soil conditions and plant traits and function across seasons. Soil water content was significantly correlated with foliar N, SLA, Hv and maximum sap velocity while soil salinity was significantly correlated with Amax, Hv and maximum sap velocity. Correlations indicate co-variation of soil conditions and plant physiology in response to environmental conditions such as solar radiation and vapour pressure deficit (D). E. macrorhyncha tolerates the dual stresses of high salinity and low soil water during summer. While the plants appeared unhealthy, our data show that remnant vegetation can remain functional even in close proximity to saline scalds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-110
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume129
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Keywords

  • Drought
  • Eucalyptus macrorhyncha
  • Photosynthesis
  • Salinity
  • Sap flow
  • Tree water use

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