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    Pine-oak ecosystems are globally distributed even though differences in anatomy and leaf habit between many co-occurring oaks and pines suggest different strategies for resource use, efficiency and stomatal behavior. The New Jersey Pinelands contain sandy soils with low water- and nutrient-holding capacity providing an opportunity to examine trade-offs in resource uptake and efficiency. Therefore, we compared resource use in terms of transpiration rates and leaf nitrogen content and resource-use efficiency including water-use efficiency (WUE) via gas exchange and leaf carbon isotopes and photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE) between oaks (Quercus alba, Q. prinus, Q. velutina) and pines (Pinus rigida, P. echinata). We also determined environmental drivers [vapor pressure deficit (VPD), soil moisture, solar radiation] of canopy stomatal conductance (GS) estimated via sap flow and stomatal sensitivity to light and soil moisture. Net assimilation rates were similar between genera, but oak leaves used about 10% more water and pine foliage contained about 20% more N per unit leaf area. Therefore, oaks exhibited greater PNUE while pines had higher WUE based on gas exchange, although WUE from carbon isotopes was not significantly different. For the environmental drivers of GS, oaks had about 10% lower stomatal sensitivity to VPD normalized by reference stomatal conductance compared with pines. Pines exhibited a significant positive relationship between shallow soil moisture and GS, but only GS in Q. velutina was positively related to soil moisture. In contrast, stomatal sensitivity to VPD was significantly related to solar radiation in all oak species but only pines at one site. Therefore, oaks rely more heavily on groundwater resources but have lower WUE, while pines have larger leaf areas and nitrogen acquisition but lower PNUE demonstrating a trade-off between using water and nitrogen efficiently in a resource-limited ecosystem.

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    Renninger, Heidi J.; Carlo, Nicholas J.; Clark, Kenneth L.; Schäfer, Karina V.R. 2015. Resource use and efficiency, and stomatal responses to environmental drivers of oak and pine species in an Atlantic Coastal Plain forest. Frontiers in Plant Science. 6: 297.


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    photosynthesis, canopy conductance, sapflow, nitrogen-use efficiency, water-use efficiency

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