We examined the relationship among ambient and manipulated precipitation, wood chemistry, and their relationship with radial growth for two oak species in eastern Tennessee. The study took place on the Walker Branch Throughfall Displacement Experiment (TDE) site, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN. Two dominant species, white oak (Quercus alba) and chestnut oak (Quercus prinus), were selected for study from a 13-year experiment of whole-stand precipitation manipulation (wet, ambient and dry). The relationships between tree-ring width and climate were compared for both species to determine the impact of precipitation manipulations on ring width index. This study used experimental spectroscopy techniques to measure the sensitivity of tree-ring responses to directional changes in precipitation over 13 years, and the results suggest that oaks at this study site are resilient to imposed changes, but sensitive to inter-annual variations in climate. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) allowed us to measure nutrient intensities (similar to element concentrations) at 0.5–1.0 mm spacing along the radial growth axis of trees growing in the wet, ambient, and dry treatment sites. A difference in stemwood nutrient levels was observed between the two oak species and among the three treatments. Significant variation in element intensity was observed across treatments for some elements (Ca, K, Mg, Na, N and P) suggesting the potential for long-term impacts on growth under a changing climate regimes for southeastern oaks.
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Vol. 68 • No. 1