Abstract: The heat wave of summer 2003 was the largest and the most persistent ever experienced in Central Europe and has fuelled concern about the effects of climate change on European ecosystems. Since forests constitute the most important European ecosystems, in this review article we assess current knowledge on the effects of heat and drought on key metabolic processes for growth and productivity of forest trees. In particular, the general consequences of heat and drought on (1) photosynthesis and respiration at the cellular and community level, and (2) on nutrient uptake, partitioning and competition for nutrients are summarized. The latter are a major sink for photosynthetic energy and, therefore, are indirectly but strongly connected to the performance of photosynthesis. In addition, the interaction of heat and drought with stress compensation mechanisms and emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOC) are discussed, since these processes are directly connected to carbon metabolism. Effects on the emission of BVOC are also included because they constitute an important feedback mechanism on ozone formation and, thus, on atmospheric pollution. As far as available, data collected during the 2003 heat wave are included and discussed.