Original Paper

European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 133, Issue 5, pp 845-855

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The anatomical traits of trunk wood and their relevance to oak (Quercus robur L.) vitality

  • Mirela TulikAffiliated withDepartment of Forest Botany, Faculty of Forestry, Warsaw University of Life Sciences (WULS) Email author 


Oaks’ decline in vitality is attributed to a complex process that involves interactions of several factors leading to increased trees’ mortality. This study investigates the structure of trunk wood of oaks with reference to its physiological role in hydraulic conductivity. On the basis of the crown condition, the oaks were classified into three health groups: healthy trees, declining trees and dead trees. Anatomical traits of wood, such as annual ring width, vessel density, vessel diameter of earlywood and theoretical hydraulic conductivity, were measured and calculated. The narrowest annual rings formed by the cambium were observed in dead oaks. These trees were also characterized by the smallest diameter of earlywood vessels, not only in the period of occurrence of dieback symptoms, but also during their whole life. It is suggested that the formation of narrow annual rings and earlywood vessels of small diameter increases susceptibility of a tree to decay. A reduced vessel diameter implies changes in hydraulic conductivity of oak trunks and thus impairs the water transport, which affects the health of trees. The process of oak decline is considered to have characteristics of natural selection and leads to the elimination of the weakest trees.


Tree decline Hydraulic conductivity Oak trees Wood annual increment Vessel diameter