Plant and Soil

, Volume 437, Issue 1–2, pp 93–115 | Cite as

Complementary water uptake depth of Quercus petraea and Pinus sylvestris in mixed stands during an extreme drought

  • Jordan BelloEmail author
  • Niles J. Hasselquist
  • Patrick Vallet
  • Ansgar Kahmen
  • Thomas Perot
  • Nathalie Korboulewsky
Regular Article



The growing demand from forest managers is to identify silvicultural practices to overcome projected water scarcity during the next decades. One solution is to mix tree species in the same stand, thereby increasing resource partitioning and minimizing competition for limited soil water. This study investigates the mixture approach for Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. and Pinus sylvestris L. during an extreme summer drought event.


During the summer drought event in 2016, we analyzed the isotopic signatures of large- and small-tree xylem and soil water throughout the soil profile to assess the depth of water uptake for both tree species. We also measured predawn leaf water potentials (PLWP) to assess water availability for individual tree species.


When grown in pure stands, both species primarily utilized soil water near the surface. In contrast, partial niche complementarity for limited water resources between the two species in mixed stands resulted in less water constraint (i.e., less negative PLWP) for oak trees compared to pure stands, especially for small trees.


Results from this study show that contrasting water use strategies can change water availability for trees and could help some species, though not all, to cope with the water scarcity predicted in a changing climate.


Monoculture Mixture Stable isotopes Resource partitioning Predawn leaf water potential Complementarity 



Predawn leaf water potential


Volumetric Water Content


Soil water content


Isotopic signature of 18Oxygene


Predawn leaf water potential



The experimental site where our study took place was installed and equipped thanks to the Centre Val-de-Loire region, the Loiret and the French National Forest Office (ONF).

The site belongs to SOERE F-ORE-T, which is supported annually by Ecofor, Allenvi and the French national research infrastructure, ANAEE-F (

This work was carried out within the framework of the SATAN project (n°1660C0008, REACCTIF program), funded by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME).

The authors thank the certified facility in Functional Ecology (PTEF OC 081) from UMR 1137 and UR 1138 BEF at the INRA Nancy-Lorraine research center for preparing and carrying out the isotopic analyses. The PTEF facility is supported by the French National Research Agency through the ARBRE Laboratory of Excellence (ANR-11-LABX-0002-01). NJ Hasselquist would like to thank the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (Branch-point) and the Swedish Research Council (2015-04791) for financial support. We also thank Victor Evrard for his help with the isotopic analyses, Svenja Föster (BaSIEL) for her help with the cryogenic distillation vacuum line, Camille Couteau (Irstea, EFNO) for canopy sampling and Vincent Seigner (Irstea, EFNO) for his assistance in the field. We also thank Damien Bonal (INRA) for his helpful discussions.

Supplementary material


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irstea, UR EFNO, Domaine des BarresNogent-sur-VernissonFrance
  2. 2.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agriculture Sciences (SLU)UmeåSweden
  3. 3.University Grenoble Alpes, Irstea, UR LESSEMSt-Martin-d’HèresFrance
  4. 4.Department of Environmental Sciences-BotanyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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