Recent decline in precipitation and tree growth in the eastern Mediterranean


Dimitrios Sarris, tel. +30 2610 997 277, fax +30 2610 997 277, e-mail:


We present evidence of a recent drying in the eastern Mediterranean, based on weather and tree-ring data for Samos, an island of the eastern Aegean Sea. Rainfall declined rapidly after the late 1970s following trends for the entire Mediterranean and was associated with reduced tree-ring width in Pinus brutia. The most recent decline led to the lowest annual radial stem increment after the last 100 years (as far as records reach). As moisture availability decreased best correlations of tree growth with rainfall were obtained for progressively longer integration periods (1–2 years in moister periods, 5–6 years during the severe dryness of 20th century's last decades), suggesting increasing dependency in deep soil water. Such long-term integration periods of tree-growth responses to precipitation have not been reported before. They may reflect a tree-rooting pattern adapted to cope with even several successive dry years. In late summer 2000, moisture reserves became exhausted, however, and a substantial fraction of low altitude pines died, including some 80-year-old trees, which underlines the exceptional extent this trend had reached. Our findings provide empirical support for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections derived from global circulation models that the Mediterranean, its eastern basin in particular, should become drier as temperature rises, as was the case in the recent past.