Floristic Change at the Drought Limit of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) to Downy Oak (Quercus pubescens) Forest in the Temperate Climate of Central Europe
AbstractAn increase in drought could cause shifts in species composition and vegetation structure. In forests it limits the occurrence of drought sensitive tree species which become replaced by drought tolerant tree species and forest communities. Under temperate macroclimatic conditions, European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) naturally dominates the forested landscape, except on extremely shallow soil in combination with high irradiation. On these sites beech reaches its drought limit, and is replaced by forests dominated by species like downy Oak (Quercus pubescens s.l.) and English Oak (Quercus petraea L). Phytosociological and ecological data were collected in the transition (ecotone) between European beach stands and stands of more drought tolerant species in order to quantify the drought intensity threshold, above which beech is replaced by drought tolerant species. It was shown that favourable topographic and soil conditions partially compensated the unsuitable climatic conditions for beech. The ecotone between these forest types was found to be characterized by shallow soils with an available soil water storage capacity of 73 l/m² or less, and an irradiation intensity of 6000 MJ/m2 or more during the growing season. This indicates that under conditions of climate change beech would naturally still remain the dominant tree species on the majority of central European forest sites.
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