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Climate–growth relationships at different stem heights in silver fir and Norway spruce

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We investigated the effect of climate on variations in annual ring-area increment along the stem of dominant silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) trees in the Black Forest, southwestern Germany, to test the hypothesis that growth allocation changes as a result of climate fluctuations. Stem discs were taken at three different stem heights: 1.30, 11.50, and 16.70 m. For each site and stem height, average annual ring-area increment chronologies were computed. In addition, we calculated ratios between ring-area increment of the upper stem discs and the disc at breast height to compare growth variations along the stem. Pearson correlation coefficients revealed a highly similar growth pattern at different stem heights, where the two upper discs were most similar. Bootstrapped correlation coefficients between the ring-area increment chronologies, ratios, and monthly temperature, precipitation, and self-calibrated Palmer drought sensitivity index data were calculated to analyze differences in climate response. High temperatures in early summer were found to reduce growth of high-altitude fir in the upper stem parts, whereas high temperatures in summer limit growth of high-altitude fir and spruce, especially at breast height. For low-altitude trees, high temperatures as well as low precipitation amounts during summer were found to reduce growth at all stem heights, but more strongly at breast height. Growth at breast height seems to be biased, as it over- or underestimates annual ring-area increments along the stem (and thereby volume increment), particularly during warm and dry climate conditions.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute for Forest Growth, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Tennenbacher Str. 4, 79106 Freiburg, Germany. 2: Forest Research and Management Institute-ICAS, Calea Bucovinei 73, 725100 Câmpulung Moldovonesc, Romania.

Publication date: May 30, 2012

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