European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 199–208 | Cite as

Revisiting the use of soil water budget assessment to predict site productivity of sessile oak (Quercus petraea Liebl.) in the perspective of climate change

  • Laurent BergèsEmail author
  • Philippe Balandier
Original Paper


Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of drought events over the next few decades in Western Europe. Consequently, there is a crucial need for an efficient tool for field water budget diagnosis to enable forest managers to estimate tree survival and productivity. Robust estimates of water budget using soil and topography were compared for their ability to predict site yield of Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. Site yield was estimated using site index at 100 years. Ninety-nine even-aged high-forest stands located in northern France were investigated. Water budget was estimated by topographic position and soil water capacity (SWC) calculated for different soil depths down to a maximum 2.0 m. (1) Site index predictions improved when calculating SWC for increasing depths until 1.0 m. (2) Site index predictions did not improve when calculating SWC at depths below 1.0 m, thus confirming that the water contained in deep soil layers is not used for tree growth but probably contributes to tree fitness or survival by maintaining a not too negative in-tree water potential. (3) Topographic position was also a predictor of site index in addition to SWC. Practical recommendations for estimating extractable soil water content are given.


Climate change Drought Soil water capacity Topography Soil depth Quercus petraea Liebl 



This work was supported by an agreement linking the French Ministry of Agriculture (DERF) and the Cemagref, entitled Relationships between site, growth and wood quality of indigenous oaks No. 01.40.07/95. We thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments to improve the manuscript. We are sincerely grateful to G. Grandjean for his precious help during the sampling of various forest site conditions, B. Jabiol for suggestions on soil descriptions and chemical analyses, and A. Perrin and J.C. Rat for their technical help during increment core collection. We would also like to thank the French National Forestry Office (ONF) for their technical help during this project, especially P. Duplat (ONF) for valuable comments during the study. We are grateful to the private owners and the ONF who gave us permission to work in their forests and core the trees.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cemagref, UR EFNONogent-sur-VernissonFrance
  2. 2.INRA, UMR547 PIAFClermont-FerrandFrance

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