Climatic Change

, Volume 106, Issue 2, pp 203-223

First online:

Impact of recent climatic change on growth of low elevation eastern Mediterranean forest trees

  • Dimitrios SarrisAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Ioannina Email author 
  • , Dimitrios ChristodoulakisAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Botanical Institute, University of Patras
  • , Christian KörnerAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, University of Basel

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Evidence is presented of how Pinus halepensis Miller from dry habitats at <300 m elevation of four Greek island regions have responded to climatic conditions of the last two centuries. We compared historical periods of low growth due to low precipitation with the recent period of significant precipitation decline. In all cases trees’ growth patterns across the twentieth century were consistent with trends in annual (rather than seasonal) precipitation, with lowest values in both precipitation and radial growth during the last two decades of the twentieth century, the worst conditions for tree growth in more than 200 years. The data are compared with trends across different vegetation belts of the northern Mediterranean basin. Drought related tree mortality in Greece in 2000 and 2007 coincided with the most severe fire outbreaks on record. IPCC WG I (2007) climate scenarios for the Mediterranean suggest a further decline in precipitation, particularly in the eastern regions. Should this occur, growth reduction in trees, tree mortality and damage from forest fires are likely to become more severe.