Forest structure drives the expected growth of Pinus nigra along its latitudinal gradient under warming climate
Category:- Journal; Year:- 2022
Discipline:- Forestry & Wood Technology Discipline
School:- Life Science School
Droughts chronically alter resource availability in forest ecosystems. The increased frequency and severity of such extreme climate events challenge the acclimation potential of tree species especially across the drought-prone Mediterranean region. Pinus nigra is a widely distributed tree species in the Mediterranean region and considered vulnerable to extreme droughts. We used a 1000 km latitudinal gradient from northern Morocco to north-eastern Spain incorporating four regions (Edge-South, Core-South, Core-North and Edge-North) and including different P. nigra provenances. We aim to identify the climate and forest structure related drivers that influence tree radial growth (BAI, basal area increment). We developed statistical models for BAI by incorporating the potential effects of climate and forest structure (diameter and age distributions). Then, we forecasted the future growth of P. nigra forests during the 21st century considering the emission scenario A2 with an expected increase of +2.7 °C at the end of this century. Our results showed large variability across P. nigra populations in terms of environmental conditions, forest structure, and growth. The northernmost P. nigra populations, subjected to wetter and cooler conditions were those presenting the lowest BAI (4.9 cm2), whereas the southernmost P. nigra populations subjected to drier and warmer conditions presented the highest BAI values (11.5 cm2). Pinus nigra growth was enhanced by high spring precipitation, but this positive effect was probably modulated by forest structure. Temperature explained a higher proportion of the BAI variance than precipitation, with warmer summer conditions decreasing growth. Growth projections forecasted a decline in BAI (from 9.6 to 7.0 cm2) across all ecological regions starting around the mid-21st century but being lower in Edge-North populations compared to the other populations. Our study provides quantitative knowledge related to how P. nigra populations have been growing across four distinctive ecological regions. We also provide a forecasting tool that incorporates both climate and stand structure related information to project dynamics in tree populations.