Will Changes in Root-zone Temperature in Boreal Spring Affect Recovery of Photosynthesis in Picea mariana and Populus tremuloides in a Future Climate?
Future climate will alter the soil cover of mosses and snow depths in the boreal forests of eastern Canada. In field manipulation experiments, we assessed the effects of varying moss and snow depths on the physiology of black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) in the boreal black spruce forest of western Québec. For 1 year, naturally regenerated 10-year-old spruce and aspen were grown with one of the following treatments: additional N fertilization, addition of sphagnum moss cover, removal of mosses, delayed soil thawing through snow and hay addition, or accelerated soil thawing through springtime snow removal. Treatments that involved the addition of insulating moss or snow in the spring caused lower soil temperature, while removing moss and snow in the spring caused elevated soil temperature and thus had a warming effect. Soil warming treatments were associated with greater temperature variability. Additional soil cover, whether moss or snow, increased the rate of photosynthetic recovery in the spring. Moss and snow removal, on the other hand, had the opposite effect and lowered photosynthetic activity, especially in spruce. Maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) was, for spruce, 39.5% lower after moss removal than with moss addition, and 16.3% lower with accelerated thawing than with delayed thawing. Impaired photosynthetic recovery in the absence of insulating moss or snow covers was associated with lower foliar N concentrations. Both species were affected in that way, but trembling aspen generally reacted less strongly to all treatments. Our results indicate that a clear negative response of black spruce to changes in root-zone temperature should be anticipated in a future climate. Reduced moss cover and snow depth could adversely affect the photosynthetic capacities of black spruce, while having only minor effects on trembling aspen.
Frechette, E. et al. Will changes in root-zone temperature in boreal spring affect recovery of photosynthesis in Picea mariana and Populus tremuloides in a future climate? Tree Physiology. 31(11):1204-1216.