Accelerated height growth versus mortality of Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. in Hungary / Krisztina Gulyás, Norbert Móricz, Ervin Rasztovits, Adrienn Horváth, Pál Balázs, Imre Berki.

Background and Purpose: Due to climate change, it is important to know to what extent forests will be impacted by atmospheric changes. This study focuses on the height growth response of sessile oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.) to counteracting effects of fostering and interfering changes under contrasting climatic conditions with special attention to the xeric limit zone of this species. Materials and Methods: Twenty-eight sites were selected along a climatic gradient from the humid region in southwest Hungary to the continental-semiarid region in northeast Hungary where neighbouring old and young sessile oak stands were available for pair-wise comparison of height growth. While these young stands developed entirely in the significantly changed atmospheric conditions, the older trees lived only a part of their life time in such changed environment. The Ellenberg quotient (EQ) was used for describing climate aridity. Stand top height in each pair of old and young stands was measured to calculate the relative stand top height using yield tables of sessile oak for Hungary. Additionally, stand densities of old stands were measured. To demonstrate the height growth differences of old and young stands their relative stand top heights were compared as functions of EQ and stand density. Results: The relative top heights of the young stands were significantly higher than of the older stands, which means that the overall growing conditions were better in the last 30-35 years due to atmospheric changes than the mean conditions during the lifetime of old stands. Although extreme drought events associated with climate change caused reduced stand density due to periodic tree mortality at the xeric limit of sessile oak, the synergetic effect of all atmospheric changes was still sufficient enough to accelerate height growth. Conclusions: There has been an acceleration of height growth during the last decades despite the increased frequency of droughts.