Does forest continuity enhance the resilience of trees to environmental change?

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


There is ample evidence that continuously existing forests and afforestations on previously agricultural land differ with regard to ecosystem functions and services such as carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling and biodiversity. However, no studies have so far been conducted on possible long-term (.100 years) impacts on tree growth caused by differences in the ecological continuity of forest stands. In the present study we analysed the variation in tree-ring width of sessile oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.) trees (mean age 115-136 years) due to different land-use histories (continuously existing forests, afforestations both on arable land and on heathland). We also analysed the relation of growth patterns to soil nutrient stores and to climatic parameters (temperature, precipitation). Tree rings formed between 1896 and 2005 were widest in trees afforested on arable land. This can be attributed to higher nitrogen and phosphorous availability and indicates that former fertilisation may continue to affect the nutritional status of forest soils for more than one century after those activities have ceased. Moreover, these trees responded more strongly to environmental changes - as shown by a higher mean sensitivity of the tree-ring widths - than trees of continuously existing forests. However, the impact of climatic parameters on the variability in tree-ring width was generally small, but trees on former arable land showed the highest susceptibility to annually changing climatic conditions. We assume that incompletely developed humus horizons as well as differences in the edaphon are responsible for the more sensitive response of oak trees of recent forests (former arable land and former heathland) to variation in environmental conditions. We conclude that forests characterised by a long ecological continuity may be better adapted to global change than recent forest ecosystems.

ZeitschriftPLoS ONE
Anzahl der Seiten18
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 10.12.2014