Growth rate and climate responses of Pinus pinea L. in Italian coastal stands over the last century
Sensitivity to climate change and anthropogenic disturbance is a typical feature of Mediterranean forests, which grow under dynamic and manipulated environmental conditions. In this study, we examine stone pine (Pinus pinea L.) along the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy to analyse the tree-growth variability on a temporal scale and to evaluate the radial growth response to climate trends over the last century. The analysis of tree ring widths at the decadal and multidecadal scale, which were standardised to remove the age trend, showed primarily significant downward trends and time periods with lower growth rates. Characterised by a clear decline in tree ring widths, the two periods of 20 years from the mid-1920s and the early 1970s appeared to be the least favourables for tree growth. Precipitation was the main factor driving growth, and the effect was cumulative over consecutive years because of the increase in soil water content. Including the current year of ring formation, correlations between decline in precipitation and tree growth were greatest with 3-year precipitation sums. The shifting influence of winter rainfall on tree ring growth toward not significant values during the last decades, together with the lack of significant correlation between the current year’s precipitation and growth decline from the 1970s, might suggest an increasingly dependence on long periods of water supply to utilise the water content stored due to the previous rainy years. The negative effect on tree-growth decline of summer and early-fall temperatures appeared as a forcing influence related to long-term changes in climate rather than high-frequency climate fluctuations.