European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 134, Issue 3, pp 555–567 | Cite as

Growth decrease and mortality of oak floodplain forests as a response to change of water regime and climate

  • D. B. Stojanović
  • T. Levanič
  • B. Matović
  • S. Orlović
Original Paper


Forest mortality is globally present, and pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) forests in Europe are no exception at all. The aim of this study was to tackle the issue of oak floodplain forests response to water level, temperature and precipitation changes due to the altered climate conditions. We examined interannual and interseasonal scales using dendroecological analysis. The goal was to review the growth from the perspective of forest management practice, including specific recommendations for forest managers. The most important environmental variable in the growth of pedunculate oak forests in Serbia (Srem region) in the last 60 years was the Sava River water level. Due to the decrease in the water level and temperature increase in the last 30 years, a general decline in growth was observed. The months that displayed the most significant correlation between the growth, water level and temperature were April, May, June, July and August, while May was the most significant month as far as precipitation influence is concerned. Responses of the various tree groups due to different age and sites (flooded vs. non-flooded, virgin vs. managed forests) were observed, although all tree groups displayed fundamentally the same response to variations in environmental conditions. The “Stara Vratična” virgin forest was considered to be without future owing to the growth decline and lack of regeneration. Guidelines for forest managers were created. Overall directions were: to increase the groundwater level in the ecosystem during prolonged drought periods if possible; to promote regeneration, which is closer to nature; and to promote forest mixing.


Quercus robur Water level Decline Climate change Dendroecology Groundwater 



This study was supported by the project “Studying climate change and its influence on the environment: impacts, adaptation and mitigation” (III 43007) financed by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Serbia within the framework of integrated and interdisciplinary research for the 2011–2014 period, the project “Improvement of lowland forest management” financed by the “Vojvodinašume” public forest enterprise, Bilateral cooperation Serbia-Slovenia (451-03-3095/2014-09/50) and short-term scientific mission in Ljubljana for Dejan Stojanović by the COST Action FP 0903-Climate Change and Forest Mitigation and Adaptation in a Polluted Environment. Field and research work by Tom Levanič, Simon Poljanšek and Robert Krajnc was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency’s basic research project J4-5519 “Paleoclimate data enhances drought prediction in the W Balkan region”. The authors would especially like to thank Simon Poljanšek for his wholehearted support in sampling and sample processing, as well as Robert Krajnc for his valuable support during sample processing. Furthermore, we are very grateful to the Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province for full research support. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions and improvement of this manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest in this research.


  1. Allen CD, Macalady AK, Chenchouni H, Bachelet D, McDowell N, Vennetier M et al (2010) A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. For Ecol Manag 259(4):660–684. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.09.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson M, Milberg P, Bergman KO (2011) Low pre-death growth rates of oak (Quercus robur L.)—is oak death a long-term process induced by dry years? Ann For Sci 68(1):159–168. doi: 10.1007/s13595-011-0017-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baillie MGL, Pilcher JR (1973) A simple cross-dating program for tree-ring research. Tree-Ring Bull 33:7–14Google Scholar
  4. Balci Y, Halmschlager E (2003) Incidence of Phytophthora species in oak forests in Austria and their possible involvement in oak decline. For Pathol 33(3):157–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer A, Bobinac M, Andrašev S, Rončević S (2013) Devitalization and sanitation fellings on permanent sample plots in the stands of pedunculate oak in Morović in the period 1994-2011. Bull Fac For 107:7–26 (in Serbian)Google Scholar
  6. Bigler C, Bugmann H (2004) Predicting the time of tree death using dendrochronological data. Ecol Appl 14(3):902–914. doi: 10.1890/03-5011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Březina I, Dobrovolný L (2011) Natural regeneration of sessile oak under different light conditions. J For Sci 57(8):359–368Google Scholar
  8. Čater M (2011) Osmotic adaptation of Quercus robur L. under water stress in stands with different tree density-relation with groundwater table. Dendrobiology 65:29–36Google Scholar
  9. Čater M, Batič F (2006) Groundwater and light conditions as factors in the survival of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) seedlings. Eur J For Res 125:419–426. doi: 10.1007/s10342-006-0134-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Čater M, Levanič T (2004) Increment and environmental conditions in two Slovenian pedunculate oak forest complexes. Ekológia (Bratislava) 23(4):353–365Google Scholar
  11. Čermák P, Fér F (2007) Root systems of forest tree species and their soil-conservation functions on the Krušné hory Mts. slopes disturbed by mining. J of For Sci 53(12):561–566Google Scholar
  12. Cook ER (1985) Time series analysis approach to tree ring standardization. Laboratory of tree-ring research. University of Arizona, Tucson, p 171Google Scholar
  13. Cook ER, Briffa KR (1990) A comparison of some tree-ring standardization methods. In: Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (eds) Methods of dendrochronology: applications in the environmental sciences. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cook E, Krusic PJ (2005) ARSTAN v. 41d: a tree-ring standardization program based on detrending and autoregressive time series modeling, with interactive graphics. Tree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  15. Cook ER, Peters K (1997) Calculating unbiased tree-ring indices for the study of climatic and environmental change. The Holocene 7:361–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cook ER, Briffa K, Shiyatov S et al (1990) Tree-ring standardization and growth trend estimation. In: Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (eds) Methods of dendrochronology: applications in the environmental sciences. Kluwer academic publishers, Dordrecht, pp 104–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dreyer E, Bousquet F, Ducrey M (1990) Use of pressure volume curves in water relation analysis on woody shoots: influence of rehydration and comparison of four European oak species. Ann For Sci 47(4):285–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Drobyshev I, Linderson H, Sonesson K (2007) Temporal mortality pattern of pedunculate oaks in southern Sweden. Dendrochronologia 24:97–108. doi: 10.1016/j.dendro.2006.10.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dubravac T, Dekanić S (2009) Structure and dynamics of the harvest of dead and declining trees of pedunculate oak in the stands of Spačva forest from 1996 to 2006. Šumar List 7–8:391–405Google Scholar
  20. Ducousso A, Bordacs S (2004) EUFORGEN Technical Guidelines for genetic conservation and use for pedunculate and sessile oaks (Quercus robur and Quercus petraea). International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, RomeGoogle Scholar
  21. Eckstein D, Bauch J (1969) Beitrag zur Rationalisierung eines dendrochronologischen Verfahrens und zur Analyse seiner Aussagesicherheit. Forstwiss Centralblatt 88(1):230–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fonti P, Heller O, Cherubini P, Rigling A, Arend M (2013) Wood anatomical responses of oak saplings exposed to air warming and soil drought. Plant Biol 15(1):210–219. doi: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2012.00599.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Führer E (1998) Oak decline in Central Europe: a synopsis of hypotheses. Proceedings: population dynamics, impacts, and integrated management of forest defoliating insects. USDA Forestry Service, General Technical Report NE-247: 7–24Google Scholar
  24. Galić Z, Orlović S, Klašnja B, Kebert M, Galović V (2011) Edaphic conditions in most common types of oak forests affected by drying. Contemp Agric 60(3–4):260–266Google Scholar
  25. Gričar J, de Luis M, Hafner P, Levanič T (2013) Anatomical characteristics and hydrologic signals in tree-rings of oaks (Quercus robur L.). Trees 27(6):1669–1680. doi: 10.1007/s00468-013-0914-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gričar J, Jagodic Š, Šefc B, Trajković J, Eler K (2014) Can the structure of dormant cambium and the widths of phloem and xylem increments be used as indicators for tree vitality? Eur J For Res 133(3):551–562. doi: 10.1007/s10342-014-0784-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Grissino-Mayer HD (2001) Evaluating crossdating accuracy: a manual and tutorial for the computer program COFECHA. Tree-Ring Res 57:205–221Google Scholar
  28. Holmes RL (1983) Computer-assisted quality control in tree-ring dating and measurement. Tree-Ring Bull 43(1):69–78Google Scholar
  29. Hydrometeorological Service of Republic of Serbia. Accessed 26 Nov 2013
  30. Jovanović B, Jović N (1981) Basic forest ecological production units and forest type complexes in Serbia. Belgrade (in Serbian)Google Scholar
  31. Jung T, Blaschke H, Oßwald W (2000) Involvement of soilborne Phytophthora species in Central European oak decline and the effect of site factors on the disease. Plant Pathol 49(6):706–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kapec D (2006) The influence of dieback intensity, microrelief and sava’s flood water on the condition and the structure pedunculate oak’s stands in management unit “Žutica”. Šumar List 130(9–10):425–433Google Scholar
  33. Klein T, Yakir D, Buchmann N, Grünzweig JM (2014) Towards an advanced assessment of the hydrological vulnerability of forests to climate change-induced drought. New Phytol 201(3):712–716. doi: 10.1111/nph.12548 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Kreuzwieser J, Papadopoulou E, Rennenberg H (2004) Interaction of flooding with carbon metabolism of forest trees. Plant Biol 6(3):299–306CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Levanič T (2007) ATRICS-A new system for image acquisition in dendrochronology. Tree-Ring Res 63(2):117–122. doi: 10.3959/1536-1098-63.2.117 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levanič T, Čater M, McDowell NG (2011) Associations between growth, wood anatomy, carbon isotope discrimination and mortality in a Quercus robur forest. Tree Physiol 31:298–308. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpq111 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Manion PD (1991) Tree disease concepts, 2nd edn. Prentice Hall Inc, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  38. Manojlović P (1924) Dieback of pedunculate oak forests. Šumar List 48(10):502–505Google Scholar
  39. McDowell N, Pockman WT, Allen CD, Breshears DD, Cobb N, Kolb T et al (2008) Mechanisms of plant survival and mortality during drought: why do some plants survive while others succumb to drought? New Phytol 178(4):719–739. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02436.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Medarević M, Banković S, Cvetković Đ, Abjanović Z (2009) Problem of forest dying in Gornji Srem. Forestry 61(3–4):61–73 (in Serbian)Google Scholar
  41. Oliver CD, Burkhardt EC, Skojac D (2005) The increasing scarcity of red oaks in Mississippi River floodplain forests: influence of the residual overstory. For Ecol Manag 210:393–414. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2005.02.036 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pilaš I, Lukić N, Vrbek B, Dubravac T, Roth V (2007) The effect of groundwater decrease on short and long term variations of radial growth and dieback of mature pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) stand. Ekologia (Bratislava) 26(2):122–131Google Scholar
  43. Public water company “HIDROSREM”. Accessed 05 Dec 2013
  44. Sala A, Piper F, Hoch G (2010) Physiological mechanisms of drought-induced tree mortality are far from being resolved. New Phytol 186(2):274–281CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Scharnweber T, Manthey M, Criegee C, Bauwe A, Schröder C, Wilmking M (2011) Drought matters–Declining precipitation influences growth of Fagus sylvatica L. and Quercus robur L. in north-eastern Germany. For Ecol Manag 262(6):947–961. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2011.05.026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sohar K, Helama S, Läänelaid A, Raisio J, Tuomenvirta H (2014a) Oak decline in a southern Finnish forest as affected by a drought sequence. Geochronometria 41(1):92–103. doi: 10.2478/s13386-013-0137-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sohar K, Läänelaid A, Eckstein D, Helama S, Jaagus J (2014b) Dendroclimatic signals of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) in Estonia. Eur J Forest Res 133(3):535–549. doi: 10.1007/s10342-014-0783-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sonesson K, Drobyshev I (2010) Recent advances on oak decline in southern Sweden. Ecol Bull 53:197–207Google Scholar
  49. Stojanović D, Levanič T, Orlović S, Matović B (2013a) On the use of the state-of-the-art dendroecological methods with the aim of better understanding of impact of Sava river protective embankment establishment to pedunculate oak dieback in Srem. Poplar 191–192:83–90 (in Serbian)Google Scholar
  50. Stojanović DB, Kržič A, Matović B, Orlović S, Duputie A, Djurdjević V, Galić Z, Stojnić S (2013b) Prediction of the European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) xeric limit using a regional climate model: an example from southeast Europe. Agric For Meteorol 176:94–103. doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2013.03.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stojanović D, Levanič T, Matović B, Plavšić J (2014) Trends in growth and vitality of pedunculate oak forests in Srem from the aspect future Sava River water level change. Poplar 193–194:107–115 (in Serbian)Google Scholar
  52. Stokes MA, Smiley TL (1968) An introduction to tree-ring dating, 2nd edn. The University of Arizona Press, TucsonGoogle Scholar
  53. Thomas FM, Blank R, Hartmann G (2002) Abiotic and biotic factors and their interactions as causes of oak decline in Central Europe. For Pathol 32(4–5):277–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vajda Z (1948) What are the causes of drying oak in Sava and Drava river basins. Šumarski List 4:105–113 (in Serbo-Croatian)Google Scholar
  55. van Oldenborgh GJ (1999) KNMI Climate explorer. Report, Koninklijk Netherlands Meteorologisch Institut (KNMI)Google Scholar
  56. Vettraino AM, Barzanti GP, Bianco MC, Ragazzi A, Capretti P, Paoletti E et al (2002) Occurrence of Phytophthora species in oak stands in Italy and their association with declining oak trees. For Pathol 32(1):19–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weemstra M, Eilmann B, Sass-Klaassen UG, Sterck FJ (2013) Summer droughts limit tree growth across 10 temperate species on a productive forest site. For Ecol Manag 306:142–149. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2013.06.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zang C (2010) BootRes: bootstrapped response and correlation functions. R package version 0.3Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. B. Stojanović
    • 1
  • T. Levanič
    • 2
  • B. Matović
    • 1
  • S. Orlović
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Lowland Forestry and EnvironmentUniversity of Novi SadNovi SadSerbia
  2. 2.Slovenian Forestry InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia

Personalised recommendations