Forest Ecology and Management, 15 October 2014, Vol.330, pp.283-293
Future climate projections for Central Europe indicate a decrease in summer precipitation which might range between 15% and 50%, and equally important, changes in the climate variability, resulting in consecutive years with drought periods. With respect to Central European forests, we asked to which degree realistic drought conditions are tolerated by the recruits of the dominant tree species L , and how the effects depend on biotic interactions. To test the combined effects of drought, competition and provenance of recruits we set up a rain shelter experiment at three sites in different regions of Germany. Transposable roof panels allowed a flexible precipitation reduction between 10% and 70% corresponding with a return period of 40 years. We planted saplings of three provenances, exposed them to drought and competition. We tested if understorey herbaceous competitors have a negative impact on saplings, and thus, exacerbate drought effects and that provenances from drier regions are adapted to drought conditions and cope better with drought conditions. Six months after the drought treatment started, we encountered significant drought effects, seen in a reduced leaf stomatal conductance, although there was not yet a response in growth rates. Overall, the site had the greatest impact on phytometer performance, while we found no indication of adaptation to drought of the different provenances. Furthermore, drought effects increased in interaction with site effects, being highest at the driest site. At the driest site, leaf stomatal conductance decreased in the presence of competition but increased in the control subplots, while the site of intermediate moisture conditions showed the opposite pattern and the wettest site displayed no differences. Our results highlight the fact that biotic interactions can mitigate or exacerbate drought effects, depending on regional site conditions.
Global Change ; Fagus Sylvatica ; Drought ; Forest Understory ; Competition ; Provenances ; Forestry ; Biology
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