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Experiments on the water budget of densely and sparsely needled spruces [Picea abies (L.) Karst.] in a declining stand


The osmotic potentials of needles were compared from numerous trees that had been classified according to needle loss along an altitude profile. With the increasing degree of damage of the trees, the maximum and minimum values deviated more strongly above and below the common mean of all samples. The level of water content of the needles unequivocally reflected the vitality of the trees. Experiments covering a whole vegetation period were performed on a tree pair selected from a natural stand. They were designed to demonstrate differences in water balance between the “healthy” and “damaged” state of the trees. For the “damaged” tree, measurements of the water potentials of single needles showed a greater reduction of potential during the course of the day compared to the “healthy” tree. Recovery in the evenings was slower and often incomplete. The osmotic potentials of “damaged” and “healthy” shoots measured in individual needles also differed both predawn and especially after transpiration stress. Depending on weather and soil desiccation, the differences were more or less pronounced. In the “damaged” tree, the rises in potential after saturation of the twigs fell far short of the “healthy” tree. Reduction of water potential, osmotic potential and relative water content under comparable stress conditions suggest a reduced tolerance of drought by damaged trees. In the context of earlier experiments this result was ascribed to a lack of stomatal control, and long-term pollution effects were thus explained as a specific disturbance of hydroregulation.

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Correspondence to Uta Maier-Maercker.

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Maier-Maercker, U., Koch, W. Experiments on the water budget of densely and sparsely needled spruces [Picea abies (L.) Karst.] in a declining stand. Trees 5, 164–170 (1991).

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Key words

  • Forest decline
  • Osmotic potential
  • Picea abies
  • Water content
  • Water potential