Precipitation variability differently affects radial growth, xylem traits and ring porosity of three Mediterranean oak species at xeric and mesic sites

Daniele Castagneri, Marco Carrer, Lior Regev, Elisabetta Boaretto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the Mediterranean basin, diffuse-porous, semi-ring-porous and ring-porous tree species coexist in the same regions. Climate change might differently affect these types, but a mechanistic understanding of drought effects on their xylem structure is lacking. We investigated tree-ring width and xylem functional traits in ring-porous Quercus boissieri, semi-ring-porous Q. ithaburensis and diffuse-porous Q. calliprinos, at xeric (Galilee) and mesic (Golan) sites in the South-Eastern Mediterranean basin. We quantitatively assessed how dry and wet years affect growth and xylem traits in different porosity type oaks, and evaluated whether porosity type is preserved or altered during these years. We measured, counted or computed tree-ring width, vessel number, maximum lumen area, frequency, tree-ring and xylem theoretical hydraulic conductivity along 40-year ring series of 50 trees in total. We also quantified ring porosity in each year using two indices, the Gini coefficient and the porosity ratio of vessel area, and described vessel area intra-ring variations by distribution profiles. We then compared these parameters in the five driest and five wettest years of the 40-year period. Radial growth and functional trait variations were more similar between species in the same site (strong drought effects in Q. ithaburensis and Q. calliprinos in Galilee, moderate effects in Q. boissieri and Q. calliprinos in Golan) than between sites for the same species (Q. calliprinos was more affected in Galilee than in Golan). Ring porosity indices and distribution profiles showed that diffuse-porous xylem structure of Q. calliprinos was maintained even under dry conditions at both sites. However, Q. boissieri xylem shifted from ring-porous in wet and normal years to semi-ring-porous in dry years, i.e. the porous ring cannot be completely built under water constraint. This suggests that ring porous strategy, typical of temperate regions with strong seasonality, might not be realized under future drier conditions in the Mediterranean basin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134285
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date6 Sep 2019
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2020


  • Drought stress
  • Mediterranean basin
  • Quercus
  • Trait-based ecology
  • Tree-ring anatomy
  • Vessel

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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