Winter survival of Scots pine seedlings under different snow conditions
Domisch, Timo; Martz, Francoise; Repo, Tapani; Rautio, Pasi (2018)
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Future climate scenarios predict increased air temperatures and precipitation, particularly at high latitudes, and especially so during winter. Soil temperatures, however, are more difficult to predict, since they depend strongly on the fate of the insulating snow cover. ‘Rain-on-snow’ events and warm spells during winter can lead to thaw–freeze cycles, compacted snow and ice encasement, as well as local flooding. These adverse conditions could counteract the otherwise positive effects of climatic changes on forest seedling growth. In order to study the effects of different winter and snow conditions on young Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seedlings, we conducted a laboratory experiment in which 80 1-year-old Scots pine seedlings were distributed between four winter treatments in dasotrons: ambient snow cover (SNOW), compressed snow and ice encasement (ICE), flooded and frozen soil (FLOOD) and no snow (NO SNOW). During the winter treatment period and a 1.5-month simulated spring/early summer phase, we monitored the needle, stem and root biomass of the seedlings, and determined their starch and soluble sugar concentrations. In addition, we assessed the stress experienced by the seedlings by measuring chlorophyll fluorescence, electric impedance and photosynthesis of the previous-year needles. Compared with the SNOW treatment, carbohydrate concentrations were lower in the FLOOD and NO SNOW treatments where the seedlings had almost died before the end of the experiment, presumably due to frost desiccation of aboveground parts during the winter treatments. The seedlings of the ICE treatment showed dead needles and stems only above the snow and ice cover. The results emphasize the importance of an insulating and protecting snow cover for small forest tree seedlings, and that future winters with changed snow patterns might affect the survival of tree seedlings and thus forest productivity.
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