Tree-growth analyses to estimate tree species' drought tolerance

B. Eilmann, A. Rigling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Climate change is challenging forestry management and practices. Among other things, tree species with the ability to cope with more extreme climate conditions have to be identified. However, while environmental factors may severely limit tree growth or even cause tree death, assessing a tree species' potential for surviving future aggravated environmental conditions is rather demanding. The aim of this study was to find a tree-ring-based method suitable for identifying very drought-tolerant species, particularly potential substitute species for Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Valais. In this inner-Alpine valley, Scots pine used to be the dominating species for dry forests, but today it suffers from high drought-induced mortality. We investigate the growth response of two native tree species, Scots pine and European larch (Larix decidua Mill.), and two non-native species, black pine (Pinus nigra Arnold) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirb. var. menziesii), to drought. This involved analysing how the radial increment of these species responded to increasing water shortage (abandonment of irrigation) and to increasingly frequent drought years. Black pine and Douglas fir are able to cope with drought better than Scots pine and larch, as they show relatively high radial growth even after irrigation has been stopped and a plastic growth response to drought years. European larch does not seem to be able to cope with these dry conditions as it lacks the ability to recover from drought years. The analysis of trees' short-term response to extreme climate events seems to be the most promising and suitable method for detecting how tolerant a tree species is towards drought. However, combining all the methods used in this study provides a complete picture of how water shortage could limit species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-187
JournalTree Physiology
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • pinus-sylvestris l.
  • scots pine
  • forest trees
  • picea-abies
  • climate
  • water
  • mortality
  • soil
  • switzerland
  • responses

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