Growth patterns in relation to drought-induced mortality at two Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) sites in NE Iberian Peninsula

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Drought-related tree mortality has become a widespread phenomenon. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) is a boreal species with high ecological amplitude that reaches its southwestern limit in the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, Iberian Scots pine populations are particularly good models to study the effects of the increase in aridity predicted by climate change models. A total of 78 living and 39 dead Scots pines trees were sampled at two sites located in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula, where recent mortality events have been recorded. Annual tree rings were used to (1) date dead trees; (2) investigate if there was an association between the occurrence of tree death and severe drought periods characterized by exceptionally low ratios of summer precipitation to potential evapotranspiration (P/PET); and (3) to compare the growth patterns of trees that died with those of surviving ones. Mixed models were used to describe the relationships between tree growth (in terms of basal area increment, BAI, and the percentage of latewood, LW%) and climate variables. Our results showed a direct association between Scots pine mortality and severe drought periods characterized by low summer water availability. At the two sites, the growth patterns of dead trees were clearly distinguishable from those of the trees that survived. In particular, the BAI of dead trees was more sensitive to climate dryness (low P/PET summer, high temperatures) and started to decline below the values of surviving neighbors 15-40 years before the time of death, implying a slow process of growth decline preceding mortality. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-630
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Climate-growth relationships
  • Drought
  • Mortality
  • Scots pine
  • Tree rings


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