Effects of pruning intensity on nonstructural carbohydrates of Populus alba × P. talassica in the arid desert region of Northwest China

  • 10 Accesses


Although pruning is important to obtain high-quality, large-diameter timber, the effects of pruning on nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) in aboveground organs of many timber species are not well understood. Three intensities of pruning (none, moderate and severe) were tested on poplars (Populus alba × P. talassica) in the arid desert region of northwest China to compare the concentrations of soluble sugar (SS), starch (ST) and total nonstructural carbohydrate (TNC) in leaves, branches and trunks during the growing season. The concentration of NSC components after different pruning intensities varied similarly in seasonal patterns, increasing slowly at the beginning of the growing season, continuously declining in the middle, then gradually recovering by the end of the growing season. The monthly mean NSC concentration in poplar differed significantly among the three pruning intensities (p < 0.05). The SS concentration in pruned trees was higher than in unpruned trees (p < 0.05). For moderately pruned trees, the concentrations of ST and TNC in trunks and branches were higher than in unpruned and in severely pruned trees (p < 0.05). Compared with no pruning, pruning changed the seasonal variation in NSC concentration. The orders of SS and TNC concentrations in aboveground organs were leaf > branch > trunk, while the order of ST concentration was trunk > leaf > branch, which was related to functional differences of plant organs. The annual average growth in height of unpruned, moderately pruned, and severely pruned poplars was 0.21 ± 0.06, 0.45 ± 0.09 and 0.24 ± 0.05 m, respectively, and the annual average growth in DBH were 0.92 ± 0.04, 1.27 ± 0.06 and 1.02 ± 0.05 cm, respectively. Our results demonstrate that moderate pruning may effectively increase the annual growth in tree height and DBH while avoiding damage caused by excessive pruning to the tree body. Therefore, moderate pruning may increase the NSC storage and improve the growth of timber species.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Anderegg WR, Callaway ES (2012) Infestation and hydraulic consequences of induced carbon starvation. Plant Physiol 159:1866–1874

  2. ANSI (2001) American National Standard for Tree Care Operations—tree, shrub, and other woody plant maintenance: standards practices (pruning) (part 1). American National Standards Institute, New York

  3. Atkinson RRL, Burrell MM, Rose KE, Osborne CP, Rees M (2014) The dynamics of recovery and growth: how defoliation affects stored resources? Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 281(1783):140–147

  4. Bore JK, Isutsa DK, Itulya FM, Ngetich WK (2003) Effects of pruning time and resting period on total non-structural carbohydrates, regrowth and yield of tea (Camellia sinensis L.). J Hortic Sci Biotechnol 78(2):272–277

  5. Buysse J, Merckx R (1993) An improved colorimetric method to quantify sugar content of plant tissue. J Exp Bot 44(10):1627–1629

  6. Carbone MS, Czimczik CL, Keenan TF, Murakami PF, Pederson N, Schaberg PG, Xu X, Richardson AD (2013) Age, allocation and availability of nonstructural carbon in mature red maple trees. New Phytol 200:1145–1155

  7. Chesney P, Vasquez N (2007) Dynamics of non-structural carbohydrate reserves in pruned Erythrina poeppigiana and Gliricidia sepium trees. Agrofor Syst 69(2):89–105

  8. Eyles A, Pinkard EA, Mohammed C (2009) Shifts in biomass and resource allocation patterns following defoliation in Eucalyptus globulus growing with varying water and nutrient supplies. Tree Physiol 29(6):753–764

  9. Gaucher C, Gougeon S, Mauffette Y, Messier C (2005) Seasonal variation in biomass and carbohydrates partitioning of understory sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) seedlings. Tree Physiol 25:93–100

  10. Gillner S, Braüning A, Roloff A (2014) Dendrochronological analysis of urban trees: climatic response and impact of drought on frequently used tree species. Trees 28:1079–1093

  11. Hoch G, Richter A, Körner C (2003) Non-structural carbon compounds in temperate forest trees. Plant, Cell Environ 26(7):1067–1081

  12. Honkanen T, Haukioja E, Suomela J (1994) Effects of simulated defoliation and debudding on needle and shoot growth in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris): implications of plant source/sink relationships for plant-herbivore studies. Funct Ecol 8:631–639

  13. Ishii H, Clement JP, Shaw DC (2000) Branch growth and crown form in old coastal Douglas-fir. For Ecol Manag 131(1):81–91

  14. Johnson DL (2007) Pruning. In: Kuser JE (ed) Urban and community forestry in the Northeast. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp 46–57

  15. Landhäusser SM, Lieffers VJ (2003) Seasonal changes in carbohydrate reserves in mature northern Populus tremuloides clones. Trees 17(6):471–476

  16. Landhäusser SM, Lieffers VJ (2012) Defoliation increases risk of carbon starvation in root systems of mature aspen. Trees 26(2):653–661

  17. Lecigne B (2013) Effets des tailles de dégagement des reseaux électriques sur la colonization de l’espace par les arbres, développement et mise en application d’analysis de données T-LidAR. Master thesis, Université du Québec â Montréal (UQAM), Montreal, pp 24–32

  18. León J, Rojo E, Sánchez-Serrano JJ (2001) Wound signalling in plants. J Exp Bot 52(354):1–9

  19. Li H, Hoch G, Körner C (2002) Source/sink removal affects mobile carbohydrates in Pinus cembra at the Swiss treeline. Trees 16:331–337

  20. Martinez-Vilalta J, Sala A, Asensio D, Galiano L, Hoch G, Palacio S, Piper FL, Lloret F (2016) Dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates in terrestrial plant: a global synthesis. Ecol Monogr 86(4):495–516

  21. Maurin V, Desrochers A (2013) Physiological and growth responses to pruning season and intensity of hybrid poplar. For Ecol Manag 304:399–406

  22. Mei L, Xiong YM, Gu JC, Wang ZQ (2015) Whole-tree dynamics of non-structural carbohydrate and nitrogen pools across different seasons and in response to girdling in two temperate trees. Oecologia 177(2):333–344

  23. Quentin AG, Pinkard EA, Ryan MG, Tissue DT, Baggett S (2015) Non-structural carbohydrates in woody plants compared among laboratories. Tree Physiol 35(11):1–20

  24. Ramirez JA, Handa IT, Posada JM, Delagrange S, Messier C (2018) Carbohydrate dynamics in roots, stems, and branchs after maintenance pruning in two common urban tree species of North America. Urban For Urban Green 30:24–31

  25. Reichenbacker RR, Schultz RC, Hart ER (1996) Artificial defoliation effect on populus growth, biomass production, and total nonstructural carbohydrate concentration. Environ Entomol 25(3):632–642

  26. Schaberg PG, Snyder MC, Shane JB, Donnelly JR (2000) Seasonal patterns of carbohydrate reserves in red spruce seedlings. Tree Physiol 20(8):549–555

  27. Schädel C, Blöchl A, Richter A, Hoch G (2009) Short-term dynamics of nonstructural carbohydrates and hemicelluloses in young branches of temperate forest trees during bud break. Tree Physiol 29(7):901–911

  28. Song H, Wang CQ (2013) Mechanism of wound-induced defense response and signal transduction in plants. Chin Bull Bot 48(4):461–469 (with abstract in English)

  29. Song XZ, Peng CH, Zhou GM, Gu HH, Zhang C (2016) Dynamic allocation and transfer of non-structural carbohydrates, a possible mechanism for the explosive growth of Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys heterocycla). Sci Rep 6:25908–25915

  30. Spann TM, Beede RH, Dejong TM (2008) Seasonal carbohydrate storage and mobilization in bearing and non-bearing pistachio (Pistacia vera) trees. Tree Physiol 28(2):207–213

  31. Vanderklein DW, Reich PB (1999) The effect of defoliation intensity and history on photosynthesis, growth and carbon reserves of two conifers with contrasting leaf lifespans and growth habits. New Phytol 144:121–122

  32. Wang CS, Zeng J (2016) Research advances in forest tree pruning. World For Res 29(3):65–70 (with abstract in English)

  33. Wiley E, Huepenbecker S, Casper BB, Helliker BR (2013) The effects of defoliation on carbon allocation: can carbon limitation reduce growth in favour of storage? Tree Physiol 33(11):1216–1228

  34. Zhang J, Li XF, Li JG, Wang H, Huang CT, Min SJ, Li G, Zhang FH, Tian X, Kong J (2013) Sap flow dynamics of Populus alba L. × P. talassica plantation in arid desert area. Acta Ecol Sin 33(18):5655–5660 (with abstract in English)

  35. Zhang HY, Wang CK, Wang XC (2014) Spatial variations in non-structural carbohydrates in stems of twelves temperate tree species. Trees 28(1):77–89

Download references


We thank Ian Gilman at Yale University for his assistance with the English.

Author information

Correspondence to Jun Zhang or Liqing Liu.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Project funding: This study was supported by Key Projects of Universities for Foreign Cultural and Educational Experts Employment Plan in 2018 (T2018013) and granted from Special Funds for Sustainable Development of Science and Technology Platform for Fundamental Research Business Expenses of Central Universities (2572018CP05).

The online version is available at

Corresponding editor: Zhu Hong.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhang, J., Liu, L. Effects of pruning intensity on nonstructural carbohydrates of Populus alba × P. talassica in the arid desert region of Northwest China. J. For. Res. (2020) doi:10.1007/s11676-020-01098-7

Download citation


  • Pruning intensity
  • Nonstructural carbohydrate
  • Populus alba × P. talassica
  • Seasonal pattern