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Open AccessArticle

The Response of Erica arborea L. Tree Growth to Climate Variability at the Afro-alpine Tropical Highlands of North Ethiopia

1
Department of Geography, Krijgslaan 281 (S8), Ghent University, 9000 Gent, Belgium
2
Wood Biology Service, Royal Museum for Central Africa, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium
3
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Mekelle University, P.O. Box 231, Mekelle, Ethiopia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(3), 310; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11030310
Received: 10 February 2020 / Revised: 5 March 2020 / Accepted: 9 March 2020 / Published: 12 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wood Science and Tropical Forest Ecology)
The important ecosystem services of the high altitude tropical afro-alpine Erica arborea L. forests are under increasing environmental and human pressure. The Erica treeline ecotone in the Ethiopian highlands forms a temperature-responsive vegetation boundary that is potentially affected by climate change. The cambium of 10 Erica arborea trees in Lib Amba Mountain and Ferrah Amba Mountain in the North Ethiopian highlands was marked in 2012, and corresponding tree disks were sampled after 498 days. Microphotographs of these cambial marks confirmed the formation of annual growth rings (0.76 ± 0.24 mm) with higher vessel density in earlywood and radially flattened fibers in the last layers of the latewood. In-continuum measurements of vessel size and density on microphotographs indicated the formation of inter-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) related to early rainfall in March-May. The same stem disks and 40 increment cores were used for detailed tree-ring analyses—a tree-ring chronology with 18 trees spanning from 1966 to 2014 could be derived. A significant (p < 0.1) positive correlation with minimum temperature in the growing season (August) and a negative correlation with minimum temperature in the spring season (March) were indicated as the most important climate factors regulating tree growth of Erica trees in the afro-alpine forest. The existence of annual tree rings and the proven potential for chronology building encourages further tree-ring analyses of Erica arborea in the afro-alpine tropical highlands in order to link it with climate variability and climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: Erica arborea L.; cambial marks; IADFs; precipitation; minimum temperature; vessel characteristics Erica arborea L.; cambial marks; IADFs; precipitation; minimum temperature; vessel characteristics
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Jacob, M.; De Ridder, M.; Vandenabeele, M.; Asfaha, T.; Nyssen, J.; Beeckman, H. The Response of Erica arborea L. Tree Growth to Climate Variability at the Afro-alpine Tropical Highlands of North Ethiopia. Forests 2020, 11, 310.

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