Water use, ecophysiology and hydraulic architecture of Eucalyptus marginata (jarrah) growing on mine rehabilitation sites in the jarrah forest of south-western Australia

Timothy Bleby

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract. Please see the pdf format for the complete text. Also, formulae and special characters can only be approximated here. Please see the pdf version for an accurate reproduction.] This thesis examines the water use, ecophysiology and hydraulic architecture of Eucalyptus marginata (jarrah) growing on bauxite mine rehabilitation sites in the jarrah forest of south-western Australia. The principal objective was to characterise the key environment and plant-based influences on tree water use, and to better understand the dynamics of water use over a range of spatial and temporal scales in this drought-prone ecosystem. A novel sap flow measurement system (based on the use of the heat pulse method) was developed so that a large number of trees could be monitored concurrently in the field. A validation experiment using potted jarrah saplings showed that rates of sap flow (transpiration) obtained using this system agreed with those obtained gravimetrically. Notably, diurnal patterns of transpiration were measured accurately and with precision using the newly developed heat ratio method. Field studies showed that water stress and water use by jarrah saplings on rehabilitation sites were strongly seasonal: being greatest in summer when it was warm and dry, and least in winter when it was cool and wet. At different times, water use was influenced by soil water availability, vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and plant hydraulic conductance. In some areas, there was evidence of a rapid decline in transpiration in response to dry soil conditions. At the end of summer, most saplings on rehabilitation sites were not water stressed, whereas water status in the forest was poor for small saplings but improved with increasing size. It has been recognised that mature jarrah trees avoid drought by having deep root systems, however, it appears that saplings on rehabilitation sites may have not yet developed functional deep roots, and as such, they may be heavily reliant on moisture stored in surface soil horizons. Simple predictive models of tree water use revealed that stand water use was 74 % of annual rainfall at a high density (leaf area index, LAI = 3.1), high rainfall (1200 mm yr-1) site, and 12 % of rainfall at a low density (LAI = 0.4), low rainfall (600 mm yr-1) site, and that water use increased with stand growth.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2003

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