Climate change is confronting forestry with new challenges. The ideal future forest would consist of species coping well with increasing drought and concurrently provide timber of high economic value. Common beech and Douglas-fir are economically valuable species, but whether they will cope with increasing drought remains unclear.
Yet, eco(physio)logical studies to assess plasticity of species in growth response and adaption to drought often concern trees from the distribution border, leading to the formulation of climate envelopes for different species.
A more straightforward approach to assess growth response to drought, which is largely neglected up to now, is studying growth performance of different provenances of a species. The establishment of large provenance trials with beech and Douglas-fir in the context of the Cost Action E52 and IUFRO programs offers an unique opportunity to study provenance performance under various environmental conditions throughout Europe.
The proposed study aims to designating provenances of beech and Douglas-fir that perform well under drought. Indicators for performance are radial growth dynamics, wood anatomy and water-conducting capacity. To do so, the growth response to drought of 5 provenances per species will be studied at different locations in Europe by evaluating tree growth, wood structure and technological properties. To link wood anatomy and eco-physiology water-transport capacity is measured using NMR imaging.
The approach of combining tree growth analysis, enabling retrospective analyses on the growth dynamics under drought with advanced NMR imaging to assess physiological implications of drought on tree vitality on different provenances of beech and Douglas-fir is unprecedented. Besides adding the variable ‘genetics’ to dendro-sciences, it will have practical implication if it comes to the selection of suitable plant material to guarantee sustainable ecological and economical performance in a drier future climate.