Establishment in Treeshelters I: Shelters Reduce Growth, Water Use, and Hardiness, but not Drought Avoidance

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  • 1 Department of Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322

We investigated water use and potential drought avoidance of Norway maple (Acer platanoides L.) and green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh) seedlings grown in protective plastic shelters. Gravimetric tree water use and reference evapotranspiration for fescue turf (ETo) were monitored for 1 to 3 days during the growing season. Water use of trees was 8% to 14% of ETo in shelters vs. 29% to 40% for trees not in shelters. Trunk diameter was affected more than whole-tree water relations by lack of irrigation, suggesting that the nonirrigated trees were subjected to only mild water stress. Shelters did not improve drought avoidance, as water potentials were generally more negative and trunk diameter increment was lower for nonirrigated trees in shelters. Maples in shelters were affected more adversely by lack of water than were ash. Higher temperatures in shelters also may have reduced trunk growth. Air temperatures were 13 °C warmer than ambient in nonirrigated shelters, but only 5 °C warmer in irrigated shelters. Tree shelters can reduce transpiration rates by over half, but benefits from reduced water loss may be offset by negative effects of higher air temperatures. Shelters reduced cold hardiness of both species, but maple was affected more than ash.

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