Abstract

Herbivory or artificial foliage removal has been shown to affect gas exchange and canopy water relations. In this study, canopy architecture and water relations in response to progressive defoliation were examined in a stand of 8-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) trees, a shade-intolerant, pioneer species common in the south-eastern USA. Sap flux was measured with constant heat sap flow gauges in order to estimate canopy stomatal conductance (Gs) while foliage in the 6 m high stand was harvested in 1 m increments from the bottom up. Leaf-level stomatal conductance and water potential data were also collected. Profiles of silhouette area ratio and specific leaf area showed no trends with crown height, reflecting an open canopy (leaf area index=1.55). Therefore, short-term changes in Gs with foliage removal were attributed to hydraulic effects rather than influences of changes in mean microclimate conditions on Gs of remaining foliage. A large increase in Gs was observed during the 6 h pruning period which fully compensated for the reductions in foliage area down to 45%. Canopy stomatal conductance and whole plant liquid phase conductance as calculated from sap flux were both influenced by the rate of growth as indicated by the annual basal area increment.

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