Modeling tree water deficit from microclimate: an approach to quantifying drought stress

Zweifel, Roman Franz; Zimmermann, Lukas; Newbery, David McClintock (2005). Modeling tree water deficit from microclimate: an approach to quantifying drought stress. Tree Physiology, 25(2), pp. 147-156. Oxford University Press 10.1093/treephys/25.2.147

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Tree water deficit estimated by measuring water-related changes in stem radius (DeltaW) was compared with tree water deficit estimated from the output of a simple, physiologically reasonable model (DeltaW(E)), with soil water potential (Psi(soil)) and atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD) as inputs. Values of DeltaW were determined by monitoring stem radius changes with dendrometers and detrending the results for growth, We followed changes in DeltaW and DeltaW(E) in Pinus sylvestris L. and Quercus pubescens Willd. over 2 years at a dry site (2001-2002; Salgesch, Wallis) and in Picea abies (L.) Karst. for 1 year at a wet site (1998; Davos, Graubuenden) in the Swiss Alps. The seasonal courses of DeltaW in deciduous species and in conifers at the same site were similar and could be largely explained by variation in DeltaW(E). This finding strongly suggests that DeltaW, despite the known species-specific differences in stomatal response to microclimate, is mainly explained by a combination of atmospheric and soil conditions. Consequently, we concluded that trees are unable to maintain any particular DeltaW. Either Psi(soil) or VPD alone provided poorer estimates of AWthan a model incorporating both factors. As a first approximation of DeltaW(E), Psi(soil) can be weighted so that the negative mean Psi(soil) reaches 65 to 75% of the positive mean daytime VPD over a season (Q. pubescens: similar to65%, P abies: similar to70%, P sylvestris: similar to75%). The differences in DeltaW among species can be partially explained by a different weighting of Psi(soil) against VPD. The DeltaW of P. sylvestris was more dependent on Psi(soil) than that of Q. pubescens, but less than that of P. abies, and was less dependent on VPD than that of P. abies and Q. pubescens. The model worked well for P. abies at the wet site and for Q. pubescens and P. sylvestris at the dry site, and may be useful for estimating water deficit in other tree species.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Vegetation Ecology [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Zweifel, Roman Franz; Zimmermann, Lukas and Newbery, David McClintock


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




Oxford University Press




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

15 Aug 2014 11:48

Last Modified:

28 Aug 2015 10:31

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Picea abies, Pinus sylvestris, Quercus pubescens, soil water potential, vapor pressure deficit, stem radius changes, tree water relations




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