Publications

Spatio-temporal assessment of beech growth in relation to climate extremes in Slovenia – An integrated approach using remote sensing and tree-ring data

Decuyper, Mathieu; Chávez, Roberto O.; Čufar, Katarina; Estay, Sergio A.; Clevers, Jan G.P.W.; Prislan, Peter; Gričar, Jožica; Črepinšek, Zalika; Merela, Maks; Luis, Martin De; Notivoli, Roberto Serrano; Castillo, Edurne Martinez Del; Rozendaal, Danaë M.A.; Bongers, Frans; Herold, Martin; Sass-Klaassen, Ute

Summary

Climate change is predicted to affect tree growth due to increased frequency and intensity of extreme events such as ice storms, droughts and heatwaves. Yet, there is still a lot of uncertainty on how trees respond to an increase in frequency of extreme events. Use of both ground-based wood increment (i.e. ring width) and remotely sensed data (i.e. vegetation indices) can be used to scale-up ground measurements, where there is a link between the two, but this has only been demonstrated in a few studies. We used tree-ring data together with crown features derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to assess the effect of extreme climate events on the growth of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in Slovenia. We found evidence that years with climate extremes during the growing season (drought, high temperatures) had a lower ring width index (RWI) but we could not find such evidence for the remotely sensed EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index). However, when assessing specific events where leaf burning or wilting has been reported (e.g. August 2011) we did see large EVI anomalies. This implies that the impact of drought or heatwave events cannot be captured by EVI anomalies until physical damage on the canopy is caused. This also means that upscaling the effect of climate extremes on RWI by using EVI anomalies is not straightforward. An exception is the 2014 ice storm that caused a large decline in both RWI and EVI. Extreme climatic parameters explained just a small part of the variation in both RWI and EVI by, which could indicate an effect of other climate variables (e.g. late frost) or biotic stressors such as insect outbreaks. Furthermore, we found that RWI was lower in the year after a climate extreme occurred in the late summer. Most likely due to the gradual increase in temperature and more frequent drought we found negative trends in RWI and EVI. EVI maps could indicate where beech is sensitive to climate changes and could be used for planning mitigation interventions. Logical next steps should focus on a tree-based understanding of the short -and long-term effects of climate extremes on tree growth and survival, taking into account differential carbon allocation to the crown (EVI) and to wood-based variables. This research highlights the value of an integrated approach for upscaling tree-based knowledge to the forest level.