Species-specific climate sensitivity of tree growth in Central-West Germany

Dagmar A. Friedrichs, Valerie Trouet, Ulf Büntgen, David C. Frank, Jan Esper, Burkhard Neuwirth, Jörg Löffler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Growth responses to twentieth century climate variability of the three main European tree species Fagus sylvatica, Quercus petraea, and Pinus sylvestris within two temperate low mountain forest sites were analyzed, with particular emphasis on their dependence upon ecological factors and temporal stability in the obtained relationships. While site conditions in Central (~51°N, 9°E, KEL) and West (50.5°N, 6.5°E, EIF) Germany are similar, annual precipitation totals of ≅700 mm and ≅1,000 mm describe a maritime-continental gradient. Ring-width samples from 228 trees were collected and PCA used to identify common growth patterns. Chronologies were developed and redundancy analysis and simple correlation coefficients calculated to detect twentieth century temperature, precipitation, and drought fingerprints in the tree-ring data. Summer drought is the dominant driver of forest productivity, but regional and species-specific differences indicate more complex influences upon tree growth. F. sylvatica reveals the highest climate sensitivity, whereas Q. petraea is most drought tolerant. Drier growth conditions in KEL result in climate sensitivity of all species, and Q. petraea shifted from non-significant to significant drought sensitivity during recent decades at EIF. Drought sensitivity dynamics of all species vary over time. An increase of drought sensitivity in tree growth was found in the wetter forest area EIF, whereas a decrease occurred in the middle of the last century for all species in the drier KEL region. Species-specific and regional differences in long-term climate sensitivities, as evidenced by temporal variability in drought sensitivity, are potential indicators for a changing climate that effects Central-West German forest growth, but meanwhile hampers a general assessment of these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-739
Number of pages11
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009


  • Climate change
  • Dendroclimatology
  • Drought
  • Tree rings
  • Water supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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