, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 265–276 | Cite as

Effects of climate on diameter growth of co-occurring Fagus sylvatica and Abies alba along an altitudinal gradient

  • Cailleret MaximeEmail author
  • Davi Hendrik
Original Paper


In high-elevation forests, growth is limited by low temperatures, while in Mediterranean climates drought and high temperatures are the main limiting factors. Consequently, the climate-growth relationships on Mont Ventoux, a mountain in the Mediterranean area, are influenced by both factors. Two co-occurring species were studied: silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) and common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), whose geographical distribution depends on their low tolerance to summer drought at low altitude/latitude, and low temperatures (late frost and short length of the growing season) at high altitude/latitude. Firs and beeches distributed along an elevational gradient were investigated using dendroecological methods. Silver fir growth was found to be more sensitive to summer water stress than beech. On the other hand, beech growth was more impacted by extreme events such as the 2003 heat wave, and negatively related to earlier budburst, which suggests a higher sensitivity to late frost. These results are confirmed by the different altitudinal effects observed in both species. Beech growth decreases with altitude whereas an optimum of growth potential was observed at intermediate elevations for silver fir. Recent global warming has caused a significant upward shift of these optima. As found for the period 2000–2006, rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall may restrain growth of silver fir. If these trends continue in the future beech might be favored at low altitudes. The species will have a reduced capacity to migrate to higher altitudes due to its sensitivity to late frosts, although an upward shift of silver fir is likely.


Growth Altitude Abies alba Fagus sylvatica Climate change Drought 



The authors wish to thank Nicolas Mariotte, William Brunetto and Florence Courdier for their support in the field. We would also like to thank Philippe Dreyfus and Bruno Fady for reading and comments on the paper. We are very grateful to Julia Fady-Welterlen and May Myklebust for the English revision of the whole manuscript. Thanks are also due to anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. This study was supported by the French National Institute for Agronomical Research (ECOGER Project).

Supplementary material

468_2010_503_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (78 kb)
Supplementary material (PDF 78 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INRA, URFM, Ecologie des Forêts MéditerranéennesAvignon Cedex 9France

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