, Volume 125, Issue 3, pp 249-259
Date: 10 Dec 2005

Impact of late frost events on radial growth of common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in Southern Germany

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Phenological, temperature, and tree-ring data were used in order to identify and quantify the impact of late frosts on common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) at different altitudes in Southern Germany during the last century. For this intention, dendroecological investigations were made upon trees at the Meteorological Observatory Hohenpeißenberg as well as from seven stands in the Bavarian Forest and 17 stands at the northern fringe of the Alps. From these locations, a considerable number of severe growth minima in the tree-ring series could be related to late frost in the days of or immediately after leaf unfolding. The frequency of frost-related growth minima increases with altitude. In individual years, radial growth can be reduced by more than 90% (stand mean) in relation to the average growth of the ten previous years. Hence, late frosts are considered as important ecological events that strongly affect beech vitality and competitiveness especially at high altitudes. Evidence of significant impacts on radial growth by late frosts distinct before leaf unfolding or with temperatures above −3°C was not found. Also, increasing frequency and intensity of late frosts during recent decades were not ascertained. Hence, the recently observed decreased vitality of common beech accompanied by growth depressions especially at high altitude sites in Central Europe cannot be explained as a consequence of late frost damage.

Communicated by Rainer Matyssek