Long-term impacts of drought on growth and forest dynamics in a temperate beech-oak-birch forest

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Rubio-Cuadrado Á, Camarero JJ, del Río M, Sánchez-González M, Ruiz-Peinado R, Bravo-Oviedo A, Gil L, Montes F (2018) - Long-term impacts of drought on growth and forest dynamics in a temperate beech-oak-birch forest - Agricultural and Forest Meteorology

The role of climatic extremes on forest dynamics is still not fully understood. This is the case for droughts in temperate forests where growth of tree species is more driven by tree-to-tree competition than by climate. In this study we examine whether droughts shape growth trends and forest dynamics in a temperate forest of beech, oak and birch located in the Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain. We used a dendroecological approach to quantify climate-growth associations and to evaluate growth resilience after droughts. We detected growth releases and quantified the increase in the number of trees established following each drought. Beech was the dominant tree species. Tree growth was only weakly related to climate variables in the three species studied. Oak was more resistant to drought than the other two species in terms of growth, with beech displaying higher vulnerability to drought. A significant association is displayed by all three species among droughts, growth releases and tree establishment pulses. After 1923 and following the dry 1940s, beech presented a peak of growth releases, whereas growth releases in oak and birch were concentrated in the 1960s and 1990s, respectively. Drought-induced growth releases probably reflect gap formation, these gaps being filled by recruitment of the three species.

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