Causes and correlations in cambium phenology: towards an integrated framework of xylogenesis

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Abstract

Although habitually considered as a whole, xylogenesis is a complex process of division and maturation of a pool of cells where the relationship between the phenological phases generating such a growth pattern remains essentially unknown. This study investigated the causal relationships in cambium phenology of black spruce [Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP] monitored for 8 years on four sites of the boreal forest of Quebec, Canada. The dependency links connecting the timing of xylem cell differentiation and cell production were defined and the resulting causal model was analysed with d-sep tests and generalized mixed models with repeated measurements, and tested with Fisher’s C statistics to determine whether and how causality propagates through the measured variables. The higher correlations were observed between the dates of emergence of the first developing cells and between the ending of the differentiation phases, while the number of cells was significantly correlated with all phenological phases. The model with eight dependency links was statistically valid for explaining the causes and correlations between the dynamics of cambium phenology. Causal modelling suggested that the phenological phases involved in xylogenesis are closely interconnected by complex relationships of cause and effect, with the onset of cell differentiation being the main factor directly or indirectly triggering all successive phases of xylem maturation.

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