Corresponding patterns of site quality, decline and tree growth in a sessile oak stand



This study focuses on two rarely studied aspects of oak decline: relations with site characteristics and effects on tree growth. The study was carried out in a 5.5 ha stand in Hungary which is strongly affected by oak decline. The nearly pure sessile oak (Quercus petraea) stand of mostly coppice origin was 90 years old at the beginning of the study. Within-stand site heterogeneity was described by the herbaceous vegetation. Four ecological site types were distinguished by the species composition of herbs, and characterized by the ecological indicator values of the species. Tree growth between 1987 and 1993 was measured, and tree vigour was estimated from visual characteristics five times between 1987 and 1993. Potential volume increment of declining trees was estimated with the growth rates of healthy trees of the same size. Volume increment loss caused by oak decline was also assessed. Significant positive relationships were found between tree vigour and tree size and between tree vigour and tree growth. The growth of seriously declining trees dropped to almost one-half of that of healthy ones. Growth reduction of living trees at the stand level amounted to 5.4%, whereas growth reduction of all trees, including those that died during the observation period, amounted to 19.9% of the potential growth. Tree size and growth were greater on better sites. A strong relationship was also found between tree vigour and site type, but sessile oak was more susceptible to decline at better sites.