EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Environmental controls of Picea mariana water use in a boreal subarctic peatland

Nia Perron1, Christoforos Pappas1, Jennifer Baltzer2, Katherine Dearborn2, and Oliver Sonnentag1
Nia Perron et al.
  • 1Université de Montréal, Département de Géographie, Canada
  • 2Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Biology, Canada

Black spruce (Picea mariana) dominated peat plateaus are an important component of northwestern Canada’s heterogeneousboreal landscape. Threats to these ecosystems, including permafrost thaw and wetland expansion, could impact hydrological fluxes therefore, it is essential to understand the factors affecting the hydraulic function of black spruce in these rapidly changing landscapes. Sap velocity (Vs, cm·hr−1) is the movement of water and minerals through tree stems during the growth period and can be used as an indicator for plant water use and the quantification of tree transpiration. Here, we identified the meteorological variables driving daytime and nighttime Vs in Picea mariana (black spruce) trees growing across a 21 hectare (20 m2 grid) subarctic boreal peatland complex underlain with discontinuous permafrost, ~630 km west of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (61°18'N, 121°18'W; ForestGEO Plot). For two consecutive growing seasons (2017 and 2018), eighteen black spruce trees were instrumented with sap flow sensors using the heat-ratio method to measure Vs. Meteorological variables including vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) accounted for 57 and 73% of the variance in daytime mean Vs in 2017 and 2018, respectively, while VPD, PAR and air temperature accounted for 26 and 40% of Vs variance at night. VPD and PAR were the strongest meteorological drivers of black spruce Vs in the ForestGEO Plot. An increase in either variable corresponded to an increase in Vs across various time periods (day/nighttime). In addition, we investigated how daytime seasonal mean/maximum Vs for black spruce was affected by local environmental factors including fibric layer depth, organic matter decomposition, black spruce density, black spruce basal area, phosphorus supply rate (P) and soil water content (SWC) when physiological traits of black spruce, including diameter at breast height and crown area, were considered as covariables. It was hypothesised that stand density and basal area would affect Vs, but results indicated that only P and SWC had a (weak) influence on black spruce Vs. The variables P and SWC had a greater influence on the amplitude (seasonal daily maximum) of Vs over the sampling period. Overstory vegetation in Canada’s Northwestern boreal forest is important for the terrestrial water cycle through tree water storage, and transpiration, therefore the quantification of black spruce transpiration and an improved understanding of the environmental controls of black spruce Vs in boreal peatlands would be a natural next step for this research.

How to cite: Perron, N., Pappas, C., Baltzer, J., Dearborn, K., and Sonnentag, O.: Environmental controls of Picea mariana water use in a boreal subarctic peatland, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-12443,, 2020.

This abstract will not be presented.