A comparative study of physiological and morphological seedling traits associated with shade tolerance in introduced red oak (Quercus rubra) and native hardwood tree species in southwestern Germany

Christian Kuehne, Peter Nosko, Tobias Horwath, Jürgen Bauhus, Marc David Abrams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.), a moderately shade-tolerant tree species, is failing to regenerate throughout its native North American range, while successful recruitment in Central Europe has been observed since its introduction. To examine whether comparative photosynthetic performance could explain the regeneration success of this non-native species in Central Europe, we compared the physiological and morphological seedling traits of red oak with three co-occurring tree species under three canopy types in southwestern Germany. Native species included a moderately shade-tolerant native oak (Quercus robur L.) and two shade-tolerant species (Acer pseudoplatanus L. and Carpinus betulus L.). The photosynthetic traits of non-native red oak seedlings were similar to those reported for this species in the native range, where shade-tolerant competitors readily outperform red oak under low light conditions. However, compared with native shade-tolerant species in Europe, red oak seedlings photosynthesized efficiently, especially under closed canopies and in small canopy gaps, exhibiting high photosynthetic capacity, low leaf dark respiration and leaf-level light compensation points that were similar to the more shade-tolerant species. The superior net carbon gain of red oak seedlings at low and moderate light levels was likely facilitated by high leaf areas and reflected by seedling dry masses that were greater than the observed native European species. A competitive advantage for red oak was not evident because relative height growth was inferior to seedlings of co-occurring species. In North America, the inability of seedlings to compete with shade-tolerant tree species in deeply shaded understories is central to the problem of poor oak recruitment. Our study suggests that the ability of non-native red oak to perform equally well to native shade-tolerant species under a variety of light conditions could contribute to the consistent success of red oak regeneration in Europe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-193
Number of pages10
JournalTree Physiology
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014

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Quercus
shade tolerance
Quercus rubra
Seedlings
hardwood
Germany
shade
seedlings
Light
Regeneration
Betulaceae
Acer
Central European region
North American Indians
indigenous species
North America
canopy
Carpinus betulus
Acer pseudoplatanus
canopy gaps

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

Cite this

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title = "A comparative study of physiological and morphological seedling traits associated with shade tolerance in introduced red oak (Quercus rubra) and native hardwood tree species in southwestern Germany",
abstract = "Northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.), a moderately shade-tolerant tree species, is failing to regenerate throughout its native North American range, while successful recruitment in Central Europe has been observed since its introduction. To examine whether comparative photosynthetic performance could explain the regeneration success of this non-native species in Central Europe, we compared the physiological and morphological seedling traits of red oak with three co-occurring tree species under three canopy types in southwestern Germany. Native species included a moderately shade-tolerant native oak (Quercus robur L.) and two shade-tolerant species (Acer pseudoplatanus L. and Carpinus betulus L.). The photosynthetic traits of non-native red oak seedlings were similar to those reported for this species in the native range, where shade-tolerant competitors readily outperform red oak under low light conditions. However, compared with native shade-tolerant species in Europe, red oak seedlings photosynthesized efficiently, especially under closed canopies and in small canopy gaps, exhibiting high photosynthetic capacity, low leaf dark respiration and leaf-level light compensation points that were similar to the more shade-tolerant species. The superior net carbon gain of red oak seedlings at low and moderate light levels was likely facilitated by high leaf areas and reflected by seedling dry masses that were greater than the observed native European species. A competitive advantage for red oak was not evident because relative height growth was inferior to seedlings of co-occurring species. In North America, the inability of seedlings to compete with shade-tolerant tree species in deeply shaded understories is central to the problem of poor oak recruitment. Our study suggests that the ability of non-native red oak to perform equally well to native shade-tolerant species under a variety of light conditions could contribute to the consistent success of red oak regeneration in Europe.",
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A comparative study of physiological and morphological seedling traits associated with shade tolerance in introduced red oak (Quercus rubra) and native hardwood tree species in southwestern Germany. / Kuehne, Christian; Nosko, Peter; Horwath, Tobias; Bauhus, Jürgen; Abrams, Marc David.

In: Tree Physiology, Vol. 34, No. 2, 01.02.2014, p. 184-193.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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