Root connections affect radial growth of balsam poplar trees.
Kokouvi Adonsou, Igor Drobyshev, Annie DesRochers, Francine Tremblay.
Root connections between trees can be an ecological advantage of clonal plant species in environments with unevenly distributed resources. We investigated the effects of root connectivity in stands of balsam poplar in Quebec (Canada). We evaluated differences in growth response between groups of trees with and without root connections through climate-growth analyses, comparison of the growth dynamics, and analysis of growth response to a severe forest tent caterpillar (FTC) outbreak. Current May temperature had a positive influence on radial growth of both connected and non-connected trees. Growth of non-connected trees was negatively affected by August temperatures (r = ?0.3) while connected trees did not reveal a significant relationship for that month. A mixed effect ANOVA showed a significant difference (F 1, 25 = 5.59, p = 0.02) in growth responses to FTC outbreak between connected and non-connected trees. Connected trees grew on average 16 % better than unconnected trees during the outbreak, with bootstrapped 95 % confidence range from 2.28 to 31.36 %. The study suggests a sharing of resources through root connections, affecting radial growth of connected balsam poplar trees under both average and extreme environmental conditions.