Growth variability of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) natural forests: Dendroclimatic study from Krkonoše National Park

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Abstract

Long-term temporal development of beech stands in relation to climatic conditions is well documented by dendrochronological analyses. The study aims to identify and describe growth factors affecting natural European beech stands (Fagus sylvatica L.) on permanent research plots in the eastern Krkonoše Mountains, the Czech Republic. The paper focus on radial growth dynamics, frequency and cyclicity, and the effect of climatic factors on diameter increment of beech stands since 1850. The growth development of beech stands was significantly affected by air pollution load in 1977–1989, and increasingly frequent climate extremes in recent years (since 2010). Periodic increment events recurred in approximately 10–18 years’ periods. Stands on research plots responded differently to climatic factors, the main limiting factor being low temperatures during the growing season, frost damages and extreme droughts. The positive influence of temperatures on beech increments was recorded in winter, early spring, and especially in July and August of the current year. Conversely, precipitation in the previous year had higher impact on radial increment, with prevailing negative correlation. The plots were negatively affected by the decrease in sum of precipitation in February and March, but it was the temperature that influenced the beech increment most significantly. Dendrochronological analysis of close-to-nature beech stands provides valuable information on radial forest growth in response to changing climatic conditions.

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