Water regime and growth of young oak stands subjected to air-warming and drought on two different forest soils in a model ecosystem experiment


  • Editor
    H. Rennenberg

T. M. Kuster, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
E-mail: thomas.kuster@wsl.ch


Global climate change is expected to increase annual temperatures and decrease summer precipitation in Central Europe. Little is known of how forests respond to the interaction of these climate factors and if their responses depend on soil conditions. In a 3-year lysimeter experiment, we investigated the growth response of young mixed oak stands, on either acidic or calcareous soil, to soil water regime, air-warming and drought treatments corresponding to an intermediate climate change scenario. The air-warming and drought treatments were applied separately as well as in combination. The air-warming treatment had no effect on soil water availability, evapotranspiration or stand biomass. Decreased evapotranspiration from the drought-exposed stands led to significantly higher air and soil temperatures, which were attributed to impaired transpirational cooling. Water limitation significantly reduced the stand foliage, shoot and root biomass as droughts were severe, as shown in low leaf water potentials. Additional air warming did not enhance the drought effects on evapotranspiration and biomass, although more negative leaf water potentials were observed. After re-watering, evapotranspiration increased within a few days to pre-drought levels. Stands not subjected to the drought treatment produced significantly less biomass on the calcareous soil than on the acidic soil, probably due to P or Mn limitation. There was no difference in biomass and water regime between the two soils under drought conditions, indicating that nutrient availability was governed by water availability under these conditions. The results demonstrate that young oak stands can cope with severe drought and therefore can be considered for future forestry.