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Tree Physiol. 1997 Mar;17(3):151-60.

Boxelder water sources and physiology at perennial and ephemeral stream sites in Arizona.

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School of Forestry, College of Ecosystem Science and Management, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5018, USA.


To assess the influence of stream water on leaf gas exchange and water potential in different sized boxelder trees (Acer negundo L.), we compared these characteristics in trees growing beside a perennial stream and a nearby ephemeral stream in a montane-riparian forest in northern Arizona. Patterns of tree water use were quantified by stable isotope analysis (delta(18)O). Physiological characteristics were similar for large and small trees. Similarity between sites in predawn and daytime water potentials and xylem delta(18)O indicated that stream water was not a physiologically important water source. Seasonal and site variations in light-saturated net photosynthetic rate were significantly related to leaf-to-air vapor pressure deficit (r = -0.691) and foliar nitrogen concentration (r = 0.388). Although deep water was the dominant water source, surface soil water was utilized following precipitation, especially by small trees. We conclude that net carbon gain and severity of water stress are only weakly coupled to stream water availability.

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