iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry (Jun 2019)

Disentangling the effects of age and global change on Douglas fir growth

  • Ravaioli D,
  • Ferretti F,
  • Magnani F

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
pp. 246 – 253


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Recent changes commonly observed in forests growth could be the result of a combination of different climatic and non-climatic factors, such as rising atmospheric [CO2], temperature changes, atmospheric N deposition and drought stress. These effects are difficult to assess, however, due to the superimposition of age-related changes. After removing age effects through a novel approach, this study quantifies the effects on tree growth of global change, and assesses the relationship with individual environmental drivers and their relative importance. Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs) were applied to decouple the non-linear effects of age and co-occurring environmental changes on basal area increments (BAI) series, as derived from tree rings in a Pseudotsuga menziesii stand chronosequence of four different age classes (65-, 80-, 100- and 120-year-old). The model could explain about 57% of the overall variation in BAI as a function of age and a selected set of predictors, including water availability in the current summer and at the end of previous growing season; together with age, winter-spring mean temperature was found to be the most important predictor. After accounting for age-related effects, a significant decrease in BAI was observed in Douglas fir over the last decades. No significant impact of atmospheric [CO2] and atmospheric N deposition were detected.