Author(s): Scharnweber T, Manthey M, Wilmking M
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Abstract Climate scenarios for northern Central Europe project rising temperatures and increasing frequency and intensity of droughts but also a shift in precipitation pattern with more humid winters. This in turn may result in soil waterlogging during the following spring, leading to increasing stress for trees growing on hydric sites. The influence of waterlogging on growth of common beech and pedunculate oak has been studied intensively on seedlings under experimental conditions. However, the question remains whether results of these studies can be transferred to mature trees growing under natural conditions. To test this, we investigated general growth patterns and climate-growth relationships in four mature stands of beech and oak growing on hydromorphic soils (Stagnosols) in northeast Germany using dendrochronological methods. Our results confirmed the expected tolerance of oak to strong water-level fluctuations. Neither extremely wet conditions during spring nor summer droughts significantly affected its radial growth. Oak growth responded positively to warmer temperatures during previous year October and March of the current year of ring formation. Contrary to our expectations, also beech showed relatively low sensitivity to periods of high soil water saturation. Instead, summer drought turned out to be the main climatic factor influencing ring width of beech even under the specific periodically wet soil conditions of our study. This became evident from general climate-growth correlations over the last century as well as from discontinuous (pointer year) analysis with summer drought being significantly correlated to the occurrence of growth depressions. As ring width of the two species is affected by differing climate parameters, species-specific chronologies show no coherence in high-frequency variations even for trees growing in close proximity. We assume differences in rooting depth as the main reason for the differing growth patterns and climate correlations of the two species under study. Our results indicate that under the projected future climate scenarios, beech may suffer from increasing drought stress even on hydromorphic soils. Oak might be able to maintain a sufficient hydraulic status during summer droughts by reaching water in deeper soil strata with its root system. Wet phases with waterlogged soil conditions during spring or summer appear to have only a little direct influence on radial growth of both species.
This article was published in Tree Physiol
and referenced in Forest Research: Open Access