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Concept: Fir


After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1NPP) in March 2011, much attention has been paid to the biological consequences of the released radionuclides into the surrounding area. We investigated the morphological changes in Japanese fir, a Japanese endemic native conifer, at locations near the F1NPP. Japanese fir populations near the F1NPP showed a significantly increased number of morphological defects, involving deletions of leader shoots of the main axis, compared to a control population far from the F1NPP. The frequency of the defects corresponded to the radioactive contamination levels of the observation sites. A significant increase in deletions of the leader shoots became apparent in those that elongated after the spring of 2012, a year after the accident. These results suggest possibility that the contamination by radionuclides contributed to the morphological defects in Japanese fir trees in the area near the F1NPP.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Pinophyta, Fir, Nuclear power, Radioactive contamination, Nuclear safety


In the absence of broad-scale disturbance, many temperate coniferous forests experience successful seedling establishment only when abundant seed production coincides with favorable climate. Identifying the frequency of past establishment events and the climate conditions favorable for seedling establishment is essential to understanding how climate warming could affect the frequency of future tree establishment events and therefore future forest composition or even persistence of a forest cover. In the southern Rocky Mountains, USA, research on the sensitivity of establishment of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa)-two widely distributed, co-occurring conifers in North America-to climate variability has focused on the alpine treeline ecotone, leaving uncertainty about the sensitivity of these species across much of their elevation distribution. We compared annual germination dates for >450 Engelmann spruce and >500 subalpine fir seedlings collected across a complex topographic-moisture gradient to climate variability in the Colorado Front Range. We found that Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir established episodically with strong synchrony in establishment events across the study area. Broad-scale establishment events occurred in years of high soil moisture availability, which were characterized by above-average snowpack and/or cool and wet summer climatic conditions. In the recent half of the study period (1975-2010), a decrease in the number of fir and spruce establishment events across their distribution coincided with declining snowpack and a multi-decadal trend of rising summer temperature and increasing moisture deficits. Counter to expected and observed increases in tree establishment with climate warming in maritime subalpine forests, our results show that recruitment declines will likely occur across the core of moisture-limited subalpine tree ranges as warming drives increased moisture deficits.

Concepts: Climate, Climate change, Seed, Spruce, Pinophyta, Fir, Conifer cone, Pinaceae


Improving our understanding of the potential of forest adaptation is an urgent task in the light of predicted climate change. Long-term alternatives for susceptible yet economically important tree species such as Norway spruce (Picea abies) are required, if the frequency and intensity of summer droughts will continue to increase. Although Silver fir (Abies alba) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) have both been described as drought-tolerant species, our understanding of their growth responses to drought extremes is still limited. Here, we use a dendroecological approach to assess the resistance, resilience, and recovery of these important central Europe to conifer species the exceptional droughts in 1976 and 2003. A total of 270 trees per species were sampled in 18 managed mixed-species stands along an altitudinal gradient (400-1200 m a.s.l.) at the western slopes of the southern and central Black Forest in southwest Germany. While radial growth in all species responded similarly to the 1976 drought, Norway spruce was least resistant and resilient to the 2003 summer drought. Silver fir showed the overall highest resistance to drought, similarly to Douglas fir, which exhibited the widest growth rings. Silver fir trees from lower elevations were more drought-prone than trees at higher elevations. Douglas fir and Norway spruce, however, revealed lower drought resilience at higher altitudes. Although the 1976 and 2003 drought extremes were quite different, Douglas fir maintained consistently the highest radial growth. Although our study did not examine population level responses, it clearly indicates that Silver fir and Douglas fir are generally more resistant and resilient to previous drought extremes and are therefore suitable alternatives to Norway spruce; Silver fir more so at higher altitudes. Cultivating these species instead of Norway spruce will contribute to maintaining a high level of productivity across many Central European mountain forests under future climate change. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Europe, Douglas-fir, Spruce, Pinophyta, Fir, Christmas tree, Conifer cone, Pinaceae


Changes in tree growth rates can affect tree mortality and forest feedbacks to the global carbon cycle. As air temperature increases, evaporative demand also increases, increasing effective drought in forest ecosystems. Using a spatially comprehensive network of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) chronologies from 122 locations that represent distinct climate environments in the western United States, we show that increased temperature decreases growth via vapor pressure deficit (VPD) across all latitudes. Using an ensemble of global circulation models, we project an increase in both the mean VPD associated with the lowest growth extremes and the probability of exceeding these VPD values. As temperature continues to increase in future decades, we can expect deficit-related stress to increase and consequently Douglas fir growth to decrease throughout its US range.

Concepts: Douglas-fir, Pinophyta, Fir, Christmas tree, Carbon cycle, Pinaceae, Coast Douglas-fir, Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir


Warmer and drier climatic conditions are projected for the 21st century; however, the role played by extreme climatic events on forest vulnerability is still little understood. For example, more severe droughts and heat waves could threaten quaternary relict tree refugia such as Circum-Mediterranean fir forests (CMFF). Using tree-ring data and a process-based model, we characterized the major climate constraints of recent (1950-2010) CMFF growth to project their vulnerability to 21st-century climate. Simulations predict a 30% growth reduction in some fir species with the 2050s business-as-usual emission scenario, whereas growth would increase in moist refugia due to a longer and warmer growing season. Fir populations currently subjected to warm and dry conditions will be the most vulnerable in the late 21st century when climatic conditions will be analogous to the most severe dry/heat spells causing dieback in the late 20th century. Quantification of growth trends based on climate scenarios could allow defining vulnerability thresholds in tree populations. The presented predictions call for conservation strategies to safeguard relict tree populations and anticipate how many refugia could be threatened by 21st-century dry spells.

Concepts: Prediction, Futurology, Climate, 20th century, 21st century, Centuries, Fir, Global warming


A reference genome sequence for Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco (Coastal Douglas-fir) is reported, thus providing a reference sequence for a third genus of the family Pinaceae. The contiguity and quality of the genome assembly far exceeds that of other conifer reference genome sequences (contig N50 = 44,136 bp and scaffold N50 = 340,704 bp). Incremental improvements in sequencing and assembly technologies are in part responsible for the higher quality reference genome, but it may also be due to a slightly lower exact repeat content in Douglas-fir versus pine and spruce. Comparative genome annotation with angiosperm species reveals gene-family expansion and contraction in Douglas-fir and other conifers which may account for some of the major morphological and physiological differences between the two major plant groups. Notable differences in the size of the NDH-complex gene family and genes underlying the functional basis of shade tolerance/intolerance were observed. This reference genome sequence not only provides an important resource for Douglas-fir breeders and geneticists but also sheds additional light on the evolutionary processes that have led to the divergence of modern angiosperms from the more ancient gymnosperms.

Concepts: Gene, Plant, Douglas-fir, Pinophyta, Fir, Pine, Pinaceae, Coast Douglas-fir


Under predicted climate change, native silver fir (Abies alba) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica) are the most likely replacement species for the Norway spruce (Picea abies) monocultures planted across large parts of continental Europe. Our current understanding of the adaptation potential of fir-beech mixed forests to climate change is limited because long-term responses of the two species to environmental changes have not yet been comprehensively quantified. We compiled and analysed tree-ring width (TRW) series from 2855 dominant, co-dominant, sub-dominant and suppressed fir and beech trees sampled in 17 managed and unmanaged mixed beech-fir forest sites across Continental Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. Dendroecological techniques that combine various detrending methods were used to investigate variation in radial growth of co-occurring fir and beech trees. Coincidental with peak SO2 emissions, the growth of silver fir declined between 1950 and 1980 at most sites, whereas beech growth increased during this period. Correspondent to a significant warming trend from 1990-2010, average beech growth declined, but silver fir growth increased. Long-term growth patterns and growth-climate sensitivity of fir and beech trees did not significantly differ between managed and unmanaged forests. Multi-decadal changes in the growth rate of all vertical tree classes were similar. In contrast to previous indications of limited drought susceptibility of beech mixed stands, this study suggests that the mixture of tree species in forest stands does not necessarily prevent growth depressions induced by long-term environmental change. Our results further imply that forest management does not necessarily alter their sensitivity to environmental changes.

Concepts: Europe, Spruce, Fir, Christmas tree, Fagaceae, Beech, Fagus sylvatica, Fagus


Changes in climate can alter the distribution and population dynamics of tree species by altering their recruitment patterns, especially at range edges. However, geographical patterns of genetic diversity could buffer the negative consequences of changing climate at rear range edges where populations might also harbour individuals with drought-adapted genotypes. Silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) reaches its south-western distribution limit in the Spanish Pyrenees, where recent climatic dieback events have disproportionately affected westernmost populations. We hypothesized that silver fir populations from the eastern Pyrenees are less vulnerable to the expected changing climate due to the inclusion of drought-resistant genotypes. We performed an experiment under strictly controlled conditions simulating projected warming and drought compared with current conditions and analysed physiology, growth and survival of silver fir seedlings collected from eastern and western Pyrenean populations. Genetic analyses separated eastern and western provenances in two different lineages. Climate treatments affected seedling morphology and survival of both lineages in an overall similar way: elevated drought diminished survival and induced a higher biomass allocation to roots. Increased temperature and drought provoked more negative stem water potentials and increased δ(13)C ratios in leaves. Warming reduced nitrogen concentration and increased soluble sugar content in leaves, whereas drought increased nitrogen concentration. Lineage affected these physiological parameters, with western seedlings being more sensitive to warming and drought increase in terms of δ(13)C, nitrogen and content of soluble sugars. Our results demonstrate that, in A. alba, differences in the physiological response of this species to drought are also associated with differences in biogeographical history.

Concepts: Biology, Physiology, Demography, Sugar, Plant morphology, Fir, Pyrenees, Abies


Morphology, anatomy and physiology of sun and shade leaves of Abies alba were investigated and major differences were identified, such as sun leaves being larger, containing a hypodermis and palisade parenchyma as well as possessing more stomata, while shade leaves exhibit a distinct leaf dimorphism. The large size of sun leaves and their arrangement crowded on the upper side of a plagiotropic shoot leads to self-shading which is explainable as protection from high solar radiation and to reduce the transpiration via the lamina. Sun leaves furthermore contain a higher xanthophyll cycle pigment amount and Non-Photochemical Quenching (NPQ) capacity, a lower amount of chlorophyll b and a total lower chlorophyll amount per leaf, as well as an increased electron transport rate and an increased photosynthesis light saturation intensity. However, sun leaves switch on their NPQ capacity at rather low light intensities, as exemplified by several parameters newly measured for conifers. Our holistic approach extends previous findings about sun and shade leaves in conifers and demonstrates that both leaf types of A. alba show structural and physiological remarkable similarities to their respective counterparts in angiosperms, but also possess unique characteristics allowing them to cope efficiently with their environmental constraints.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Light, Anatomy, Plant physiology, Leaf, Chlorophyll, Pinophyta, Fir


Trees in urban areas are important for their ecological functions in addition to their esthetic characteristics. Trees provide positive effects on urban microclimate by canopy, reflection, and transpiration activities; therefore, they help to decline formation of heat island. The objective of this study was to determine thermal effects of 15 different tree types: 4 coniferous and 11 deciduous species commonly found in the city of Erzurum located at the northeastern part of Turkey. The relationships between sky view factor and surface temperature regarding the differences in leaf density and tree species. In August 2016, the surface temperature of trees was measured using a thermal camera at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm hours. Sky view factor (SVF) was obtained by fisheye photos and physiologically characteristics of trees were determined. In all trees while the surface temperature was 20.1 °C at 10:00 am, it was 23.4 °C at 4:00 pm. Among the deciduous tree species, Betula verrucosa Ehrh. and Robinia pseudoacacia “Umbracuifera” had the lowest surface temperature; however, Abies concolor (Gord. & Glen.) had the lowest surface temperature among the coniferous tree species. The results indicated that the surface temperatures of different tree species varied considerably, and the SVF value had a significant effect on tree surface temperatures. However, it was obtained that the leaf types had no statistically significant effect on tree surface temperature.

Concepts: Plant, Temperature, Heat, Tree, Leaf, Pinophyta, Fir, Deciduous