, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 353–362 | Cite as

Mortality of urban pines in Helsinki explored using tree rings and climate records

  • Samuli Helama
  • Alar Läänelaid
  • Juha Raisio
  • Heikki Tuomenvirta
Original Paper


The mortality of Scots pine trees in and around Helsinki has been reported in recent years, but the causalities of these deaths have not so far been rigorously examined. Tree-ring analyses have previously shown to effectively reveal historical growth variability and thus hint at the stress factors behind tree mortality. Here, we analyzed the tree rings of pines in two tree classes (living and dead) from an urban park in Helsinki to reveal their growth variations and to examine the obtained chronologies along with climatic data. Guided by tree-ring information, the pine growth over the past century could be divided into four episodes: average growth conditions during the first half of the twentieth century, a suppressed growth period during the 1950s and 1960s, a growth release since the mid-1970s, and a period of recent mortality. The two tree classes became particularly differentiated during the release period in that the growth of surviving pines underwent a more positive and abrupt growth anomaly in comparison to dead pines. The survival of pines could also be linked to their sensitivity to droughts in a long-term context: The growth of still-living pines showed a statistically significant moisture sensitivity over the second half of the century only. The period 2002–2003 (coinciding with drought) was observed as a dendrochronologically dated episode with a 40% mortality. Overall, the results point to the importance of tree competitive strength and climate as predisposing and inciting/contributing factors behind the tree mortality.


Climate change Dendrochronology Drought Pinus sylvestris Plant ecology Urban ecology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuli Helama
    • 1
  • Alar Läänelaid
    • 2
  • Juha Raisio
    • 3
  • Heikki Tuomenvirta
    • 4
  1. 1.Arctic CentreUniversity of LaplandRovaniemiFinland
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  3. 3.The Public Works DepartmentStreet and Park DivisionHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Finnish Meteorological InstituteHelsinkiFinland

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