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Big eucalypts grow more slowly in a warm climate: evidence of an interaction between tree size and temperature


Prior, LD and Bowman, DMJS, Big eucalypts grow more slowly in a warm climate: evidence of an interaction between tree size and temperature, Global Change Biology, 20, (9) pp. 2793-2799. ISSN 1354-1013 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.12540


Large trees are critical components of forest ecosystems, but are declining in many forests worldwide. We predicted that growth of large trees is more vulnerable than that of small trees to high temperatures, because respiration and tissue maintenance costs increase with temperature more rapidly than does photosynthesis and these costs may be disproportionately greater in large trees. Using 5 00 000 measurements of eucalypt growth across temperate Australia, we found that high temperatures do appear to impose a larger growth penalty on large trees than on small ones. Average stem diameter growth rates at 21 C compared with 11 C mean annual temperature were 57% lower for large trees (58 cm stem diameter), but only 29% lower for small trees (18 cm diameter). While our results are consistent with an impaired carbon budget for large trees at warmer sites, we cannot discount causes such as hydraulic stress. We conclude that slower growth rates will impede recovery from extreme events, exacerbating the effects of higher temperatures, increased drought stress and more frequent fire on the tall eucalypt forests of southern Australia.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:eucalyptus, tree growth, climate, Australia, climate gradient, continental scale, tall trees, temperature, tree growth, water availability
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Landscape ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems
UTAS Author:Prior, LD (Dr Lynda Prior)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:94125
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:34
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2014-08-29
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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