Air pollution and climate change are two key factors comprising the global change threat to forest health and sustainability. The intensive development of industry in the second half of the 20th century brought significant changes in the level of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere in Poland. Dry and wet deposition of toxic pollutants (mainly SO2, NOx, and NH3), continuing over more than 40 years, has caused serious damage to forest stands. One of the ways for describing the effect of industrial emissions on forests is tree-rings (dendrochronological) analysis, which has been used in our research. We present a brief description of the studies on the impact of air pollution on the growth of forests growing in the most polluted areas of Poland. The main aim is to evaluate Scots pine stand degradation caused by the pollutants emitted from one of biggest polluters of the environment in Poland for over 25 years (1966–1990). We found that pollutant emission caused disturbances of incremental dynamics and long-term strong reduction of growth. Scots pine growing in the vicinity of the nitrogen fertilizer factory showed a dramatic growth reduction after the beginning of the pollution period. Significant decrease in growth was observed for the majority of investigated trees (75%) to the end of the 1990s. The zone of destruction extends primarily in easterly and southern directions, from the pollution source, associated with the prevailing winds of the region. At the end of the 1990s, the decreasing trend stopped and the wider tree-rings could be observed. This situation was related to a radical reduction in ammonia emissions and an improvement in environmental conditions. However, the growth of damaged trees due to the weakened health condition is lower than the growth of Scots pine on the reference plot and trees are more sensitive to stressful climatic conditions, especially to drought.
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