Taxon-Independent and Taxon-Dependent Responses to Drought in Seedlings from Quercus robur L., Q. petraea (Matt.) Liebl. and Their Morphological Intermediates
The increasing severity and frequency of summer droughts at mid-latitudes in Europe may impact forest regeneration. We investigated whether the sympatric species Quercus robur L., Q. petraea (Matt.) Liebl., and their morphological intermediates respond differentially to water deficit. Acorns were sourced from a naturally mixed population. Half of the potted seedlings were subjected to two successive drought periods during the first growing season, each followed by a plentiful re-watering. The
... re-watering. The surviving drought-exposed seedlings subsisted independent of the taxon of the mother tree. The phenological responses were also taxon-independent. However, drought-exposed plants showed a retarded height growth in the year following the treatment which was taxon-dependent. Offspring from Q. robur and from trees with leaves resembling Q. robur leaves and infructescences resembling Q. petraea infructescences showed a stronger decrease in height growth compared to the offspring from Q. petraea and from trees with leaves resembling Q. petraea leaves and infructescences resembling Q. robur infructescences. Diameter growth in the year following the drought treatment showed a weak taxon-dependent response. Together, our results may suggest that the composition of oak species and their hybrids in natural oak forests could be altered upon prolonged periods of precipitation deficit.