Biomass production and potential water stress increase with planting density in four highly productive clonal Eucalyptus genotypes
The choice of planting density and tree genotype are basic decisions when establishing a forest stand. Understanding the interaction between planting density and genotype, and their relationship with biomass production and potential water stress, is crucial as forest managers are faced with a changing climate. However, few studies have investigated this relationship, especially in areas with highly productive forests. This study aimed to determine the interaction between biomass production and leaf water potential, as a surrogate of potential water stress, in different clonal Eucalyptus genotypes across a range of planting densities. Four clones (two clones of E. urophylla × E. grandis, one clone of E. urophylla, and one clone of E. grandis × E. camaldulensis) and four planting densities (ranging from 591 to 2 949 trees ha−1) were evaluated in an experimental stand in south-eastern Brazil. Biomass production was estimated 2.5 years after planting and predawn (ψpd) and midday (ψmd) leaf water potential were measured 2 and 2.5 years after planting, in February (wet season) and August (dry season) in 2014. For all clones, total stand stemwood biomass production increased and leaf water potential decreased with planting density, and their interaction was significant. Thus, wood biomass at tighter spacings was higher but exhibited lower leaf water potentials, resulting in a trade-off between productivity and potential water stress. These are preliminary findings and still need to be supported by more experimental evidence and repetitions. However, in light of the increased frequency of extreme climate events, silvicultural practices that are tailored to the potential productivity of each region and that result in low potential water stress should be considered.
Keywords: Brazil, leaf water potential, plantation, wood productivity