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Do tree rings record changes in soil fertility? Results from a Quercus petraea fertilization trial

Abstract : Through the variations in their dimension, density, anatomy or isotopes composition, tree rings have provided invaluable proxies to evaluate past changes in the environment. Whereas long-term records of changes in soil fertility are particularly desired for forest ecosystem studies, the use of the chemical composition of tree rings as potential marker is still controversial. Dendrochemistry has sometimes been considered as a promising approach to study past changes in soil chemistry, whereas some authors stated that element translocations in the wood preclude any possibility of reliable retrospective monitoring. Here, we aimed at testing whether the wood elemental content of fertilized oaks (Quercus petraea) differed from control trees >30 years after a NPKCaMg fertilization and, if so, if the date of fertilization could be retrieved from the ring analysis. The contents in N, Mg, P, K, Ca and Mn were measured for each of the 43 sampled trees and in every ring of the 58-year long chronology with a non-destructive method coupling a Wavelength Dispersive Spectroscope (WDS) with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).The results showed significantly higher contents in Ca and lower contents in Mn in fertilized compared to control trees. However, there was no difference in elemental content between the rings of the fertilized trees built in the 20 years before and those built after fertilization. Thus, whereas the effect of fertilization on increasing ring width was dramatic, immediate and relatively short-lasting, the elemental composition of the entire ring sequence was impacted, precluding the dating of the event. These results question the possibility to reconstruct long-term changes in soil fertility based on dendrochemistry.
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Contributor : Stéphane Ponton <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - 4:05:07 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - 2:57:32 PM

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Maxime Durand, Christophe Rose, Jean-Luc Dupouey, Arnaud Legout, Stéphane Ponton. Do tree rings record changes in soil fertility? Results from a Quercus petraea fertilization trial. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2020, 712, ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136148⟩. ⟨hal-03046910⟩



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