Wood structural differences between northern and southern beech provenances growing at a moderate site

B. Eilmann, F.J. Sterck, L. Wegner, S.M.G. de Vries, G. von Arx, G.M.J. Mohren, J. den Ouden, U.G.W. Sass-Klaassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Planting provenances originating from southern to northern locations has been discussed as a strategy to speed up species migration and mitigate negative effects of climate change on forest stability and productivity. Especially for drought-susceptible species such as European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), the introduction of drought-tolerant provenances from the south could be an option. Yet, beech has been found to respond plastically to environmental conditions, suggesting that the climate on the plantation site might be more important for tree growth than the genetic predisposition of potentially drought-adapted provenances. In this study, we compared the radial growth, wood-anatomical traits and leaf phenology of four beech provenances originating from southern (Bulgaria, France) and northern locations (Sweden, the Netherlands) and planted in a provenance trial in the Netherlands. The distribution of precipitation largely differs between the sites of origin. The northern provenances experience a maximum and the southern provenances experience a minimum of rainfall in summer. We compared tree productivity and the anatomy of the water-conducting system for the period from 2000 to 2010, including the drought year 2003. In addition, tree mortality and the timing of leaf unfolding in spring were analysed for the years 2001, 2007 and 2012. Comparison of these traits in the four beech provenances indicates the influence of genetic predisposition and local environmental factors on the performance of these provenances under moderate site conditions. Variation in radial growth was controlled by environment, although the growth level slightly differed due to genetic background. The Bulgarian provenance had an efficient water-conducting system which was moreover unaffected by the drought in 2003, pointing to a high ability of this provenance to cope well with dry conditions. In addition, the Bulgarian provenance showed up as most productive in terms of height and radial growth. Altogether, we conclude that the similarity in ring-width variation among provenances points to environmental control of this trait, whereas the differences encountered in wood-anatomical traits between the well-performing Bulgarian provenance and the other three provenances, as well as the consistent differences in flushing pattern over 3 years under various environmental conditions, support the hypothesis of genetic control of these features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)882-893
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • fagus-sylvatica l.
  • climate-change
  • european beech
  • scots pine
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • forest trees
  • drought tolerance
  • quercus-petraea
  • pubescent oak
  • norway spruce

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Wood structural differences between northern and southern beech provenances growing at a moderate site'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this