Forecasted warmer and drier conditions will probably lead to reduced growth rates and decreased carbon fixation in long-term woody pools in drought-prone areas. We therefore need a better understanding of how climate stressors such as drought constrain wood formation and drive changes in wood anatomy. Drying trends could lead to reduced growth if they are more intense in spring, when radial growth rates of conifers in continental Mediterranean climates peak. Since tree species from the aforementioned areas have to endure dry summers and also cold winters, we chose two coexisting species: Aleppo pine ( Pinus halepensis Mill., Pinaceae) and Spanish juniper ( Juniperus thurifera L., Cupressaceae) (10 randomly selected trees per species), to analyze how growth (tree-ring width) and wood-anatomical traits (lumen transversal area, cell-wall thickness, presence of intra-annual density fluctuations—IADFs—in the latewood) responded to climatic variables (minimum and maximum temperatures, precipitation, soil moisture deficit) calculated for different time intervals. Tree-ring width and mean lumen area showed similar year-to-year variability, which indicates that they encoded similar climatic signals. Wet and cool late-winter to early-spring conditions increased lumen area expansion, particularly in pine. In juniper, cell-wall thickness increased when early summer conditions became drier and the frequency of latewood IADFs increased in parallel with late-summer to early-autumn wet conditions. Thus, latewood IADFs of the juniper capture increased water availability during the late growing season, which is reflected in larger tracheid lumens. Soil water availability was one of the main drivers of wood formation and radial growth for the two species. These analyses allow long-term (several decades) growth and wood-anatomical responses to climate to be inferred at intra-annual scales, which agree with the growing patterns already described by xylogenesis approaches for the same species. A plastic bimodal growth behavior, driven by dry summer conditions, is coherent with the presented wood-anatomical data. The different wood-anatomical responses to drought stress are observed as IADFs with contrasting characteristics and responses to climate. These different responses suggest distinct capacities to access soil water between the two conifer species.
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition