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Is ring width a reliable proxy for stem-biomass increment? A case study in European beech

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The relationship between basal-area increment and stem-volume increment or biomass annual production was investigated in 30 dominant European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in northeastern France. The trees were sampled at four heights along the stem for dendrochronological and densitometric measurements. Annual stem-volume and stem-biomass increments were computed from the measurements and were not obtained by applying allometric relationships. A comparison of the ring-area increments at the four stem heights indicated that the vertical distribution of annual growth fluctuates at an interannual time step and is influenced by climate during the growing season, particularly drought events. Ring-area increments were more strongly reduced at breast height than in the upper parts of the tree during dry years. Relationships between basal-area increment and volume or annual biomass production were very strong, but the residuals of these relationhips contained up to 50% climate information. The amplitude of the breast-height radial-growth response to drought is much larger than the volume and biomass-production responses. Variations of wood density in this diffuse-porous species are not large enough to consistently modify the estimates of annual stem biomass production. Breast-height series are a valuable tool for dendrochronological investigations, but as they are more sensitive to drought, they greatly underestimate tree biomass increments during drought episodes.

La relation entre l'accroissement en surface terrière et la croissance en volume ou en biomasse a été analysée sur un échantillon de 30 hêtres communs (Fagus sylvatica L.) provenant du nord-est de la France. Les arbres ont été échantillonnés à quatre hauteurs le long du tronc pour des mesures dendrochronologiques et densitométriques. Les accroissements annuels en volume et en biomasse du tronc ont été déduits des mesures et ne proviennent pas de l'application de relations allométriques. La comparaison des accroissements observés sur les quatre hauteurs de mesure a révélé que la distribution de la croissance le long tronc fluctue entre années et est influencée par le climat lors de la saison de végétation, et particulièrement par les épisodes de sécheresse. La croissance était plus réduite à hauteur de poitrine que plus en hauteur lors des années sèches. Les relations entre l'accroissement en surface terrière et la production de volume ou de biomasse étaient très fortes, mais les résidus de ces relations présentaient jusqu'à 50 % de signal climatique. L'intensité de la réponse à la sécheresse de la croissance radiale à hauteur de poitrine est plus forte que celles de l'accroissement en volume ou biomasse. La variation de la densité annuelle du bois pour cette espèce à pores diffus n'est pas assez grande pour modifier sensiblement les estimations de production annuelle de biomasse. Les séries chronologiques à hauteur de poitrine sont donc de bons outils de recherche dendrochronologique, étant plus sensibles à la sécheresse, mais induisent des erreurs systématiques non négligeables de sous-estimation de la production de biomasse durant les épisodes de sécheresse.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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