Forest Ecology and Management, 01 May 2018, Vol.415-416, pp.148-159
Future increases in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns may negatively affect the growth performance of economically important tree species such as Norway spruce, which in the past have often been established and managed in monocultures. Structural diversity has been advocated as a silvicultural approach to increase resistance and resilience of forests to climate change extremes. Whether it promotes growth stability during and following drought years has not yet been analyzed. We investigated stem growth reactions to the extreme drought of 2003 in 23 uneven-structured, mixed Norway spruce and Silver fir stands in southwestern Germany. Using linear mixed-effects models we analyzed the resistance and resilience of basal area increment in relation to species identity, drought intensity, tree size, competition, density and diversity. Structural diversity, measured as variation in tree diameter at breast height, had no influence on increment stability during the extreme summer drought of 2003. Likewise, the effect of species diversity was weak and inconclusive. However, a higher presence of Silver fir in the mixture appeared to reduce increment stability in 2003 for both fir and spruce. Reducing competition through thinning counteracted this effect and promoted increment stability. Our findings indicate that the species identity of competitors in mixtures is a better predictor of stem growth reactions to drought than diversity. They support the conclusion that diversity does not generally increase stability to drought stress. Silver fir consistently showed a substantially higher increment resistance and resilience than spruce. Its resistance increased with diminishing drought intensity, yet spruce reacted uniformly, manifesting a low resistance across the whole drought intensity gradient. Spruce did not regain pre-drought growth levels within the first three years after drought, whereas fir did. We conclude that fir may be able to act as a silvicultural alternative to spruce under changing climatic conditions, given appropriate sites and thinning regimes. Considering the expected increase in drought intensity and frequency in the 21 century, understanding species interactions at the local scale emerges as an essential prerequisite for developing resilient forest stands.
Basal Area Increment ; Drought Stress ; Plant–Plant Interactions ; Silver Fir ; Norway Spruce ; Structural Diversity ; Forestry ; Biology
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