Contrasting vulnerability and resilience to drought-induced decline of densely planted vs. natural rear-edge Pinus nigra forests

Raúl Sánchez-Salguero, J. Julio Camarero, Matthias Dobbertin, Ángel Fernández-Cancio, Albert Vilà-Cabrera, Rubén D. Manzanedo, Miguel A. Zavala, Rafael M. Navarro-Cerrillo

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    65 Citations (Scopus)


    The southernmost European natural and planted pine forests are among the most vulnerable areas to warming-induced drought decline. Both drought stress and management factors (e.g., stand origin or reduced thinning) may induce decline by reducing the water available to trees but their relative importances have not been properly assessed. The role of stand origin - densely planted vs. naturally regenerated stands - as a decline driver can be assessed by comparing the growth and vigor responses to drought of similar natural vs. planted stands. Here, we compare these responses in natural and planted Black pine (Pinus nigra) stands located in southern Spain. We analyze how environmental factors - climatic (temperature and precipitation anomalies) and site conditions - and biotic factors - stand structure (age, tree size, density) and defoliation by the pine processionary moth - drive radial growth and crown condition at stand and tree levels. We also assess the climatic trends in the study area over the last 60. years. We use dendrochronology, linear mixed-effects models of basal area increment and structural equation models to determine how natural and planted stands respond to drought and current competition intensity. We observed that a temperature rise and a decrease in precipitation during the growing period led to increasing drought stress during the late 20th century. Trees from planted stands experienced stronger growth reductions and displayed more severe crown defoliation after severe droughts than those from natural stands. High stand density negatively drove growth and enhanced crown dieback, particularly in planted stands. Also pine processionary moth defoliation was more severe in the growth of natural than in planted stands but affected tree crown condition similarly in both stand types. In response to drought, sharp growth reduction and widespread defoliation of planted Mediterranean pine stands indicate that they are more vulnerable and less resilient to drought stress than natural stands. To mitigate forest decline of planted stands in xeric areas such as the Mediterranean Basin, less dense and more diverse stands should be created through selective thinning or by selecting species or provenances that are more drought tolerant. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)956-967
    JournalForest Ecology and Management
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2013


    • Basal area increment
    • Climate warming
    • Dendroecology
    • Drought
    • Forest decline
    • Pinus nigra


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