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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water-use efficiency and productivity in native Canadian populations of Populus trichocarpa and Populus balsamifera Pointeau, Virginie M.


Afforestation and reforestation programs utilizing available fields for biofuel production, carbon sequestration, and other uses linked to climate change are looking to tree physiologists to identify species and genotypes best-suited to their purposes. The ideal poplar genotype for use in Canadian programs would be drought-resistant, cold-climate adapted, and fast-growing, thus requiring an understanding of links between a variety of physiological traits linked to growth and productivity. This study examined the basis for variations in water-use efficiency within four selected populations of Populus trichocarpa and Populus balsamifera (2 provenances each). Each species included both a northern and a southern provenance. Correlations between water-use efficiency, nitrogen-use efficiency, ¹³C/¹²C isotope ratio, stomatal conductance, and overall productivity were evaluated. Gas exchange variables measured included net photosynthesis, transpiration rate, stomatal conductance, and intercellular CO₂ content. Water-use efficiency and ¹³C content across all genotypes were highly correlated. Results suggested that variation in water-use efficiency was primarily related to variation in stomatal conductance across all genotypes. Whereas differences in net photosynthesis in this study were not significant between species, P. balsamifera did reveal a higher average stem volume overall. Although variation in stomatal conductance was the major determinant of differences in water-use efficiency, positive correlations were found between ¹³C isotope abundance and net photosynthesis in both P. balsamifera provenances. In this regard, results for the northern P. balsamifera provenance are the most consistent across all gas-exchange and growth trait correlations, in terms of meeting expectations for sink-driven water-use efficiency. The findings in this study suggest the possibility of identifying poplar genotypes with an absence of trade-off between water-use efficiency and nitrogen-use efficiency, notably among genotypes from the northern P. balsamifera provenance, near Gillam.

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