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Plants 2013, 2(4), 676-698; doi:10.3390/plants2040676
Communication

Decrease in Available Soil Water Storage Capacity Reduces Vitality of Young Understorey European Beeches (Fagus sylvatica L.)—A Case Study from the Black Forest, Germany

1,* , 2
 and 1
Received: 27 June 2013; in revised form: 17 September 2013 / Accepted: 10 October 2013 / Published: 23 October 2013
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Abstract: Growth and survival of young European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) is largely dependent on water availability. We quantified the influence of water stress (measured as Available Soil Water Storage Capacity or ASWSC) on vitality of young beech plants at a dry site. The study site was located in a semi-natural sessile oak (Quercus petraea (Mattuschka) Liebl.) stand adjacent to beech stands on a rocky gneiss outcrop in southwestern Germany. Plant vitality was measured as crown dieback and estimated by the percentage of dead above ground biomass. The magnitude of crown dieback was recorded in different vertical parts of the crown. Biomass was calculated from the harvested plants following allometric regression equations specifically developed for our study site. Stem discs from harvested plants were used for growth analysis. We found that soil depth up to bedrock and skeleton content significantly influenced ASWSC at the study site. A significant negative correlation between ASWSC and crown dieback was found. Highest rates of crown dieback were noticed in the middle and lower crown. The threshold of crown dieback as a function of drought stress for young beech plants was calculated for the first time in this study. This threshold of crown dieback was found to be 40% of above ground biomass. Beyond 40% crown dieback, plants eventually experienced complete mortality. In addition, we found that the extremely dry year of 2003 significantly hampered growth (basal area increment) of plants in dry plots (ASWSC < 61 mm) in the study area. Recovery in the plants’ radial growth after that drought year was significantly higher in less dry plots (ASWSC > 61 mm) than in dry plots. We concluded that a decrease in ASWSC impeded the vitality of young beech causing partial up to complete crown dieback in the study site.
Keywords: water stress; available soil water storage capacity; crown dieback; above ground biomass; tree survivability; semi-natural forest; summer drought of 2003; basal area increment water stress; available soil water storage capacity; crown dieback; above ground biomass; tree survivability; semi-natural forest; summer drought of 2003; basal area increment
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Chakraborty, T.; Saha, S.; Reif, A. Decrease in Available Soil Water Storage Capacity Reduces Vitality of Young Understorey European Beeches (Fagus sylvatica L.)—A Case Study from the Black Forest, Germany. Plants 2013, 2, 676-698.

AMA Style

Chakraborty T, Saha S, Reif A. Decrease in Available Soil Water Storage Capacity Reduces Vitality of Young Understorey European Beeches (Fagus sylvatica L.)—A Case Study from the Black Forest, Germany. Plants. 2013; 2(4):676-698.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chakraborty, Tamalika; Saha, Somidh; Reif, Albert. 2013. "Decrease in Available Soil Water Storage Capacity Reduces Vitality of Young Understorey European Beeches (Fagus sylvatica L.)—A Case Study from the Black Forest, Germany." Plants 2, no. 4: 676-698.


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