Plant and Soil

, Volume 319, Issue 1–2, pp 163–174 | Cite as

Oak decline in Helsinki portrayed by tree-rings, climate and soil data

  • S. Helama
  • A. Läänelaid
  • J. Raisio
  • H. Tuomenvirta
Regular Article


Oak decline has recently been observed in and around Helsinki. Tree-ring widths of pedunculate oak were used to assess pre-mortem growth patterns, their dependence on climatic factors and linkages to soil thickness. Tree-ring chronologies were constructed in three tree vigour classes (healthy, declining and dying oaks). Characteristic “summer response” was found as a positive influence of summer precipitation was the most important climatic factor limiting the radial growth in all vigour classes. On the other hand, a differing “winter response” was found for tree-rings of dying and other classes of oaks. The growth of dying oaks was more sensitive to variations in mid-winter temperatures, due presumably to higher risk of frost damage to their roots. Recent summer droughts, which may have increased the potential for bark necrosis due to reinforcing effects from defoliation in decreasing the capability of oaks to acclimatize to winter frost, may thus have played a role in this decline. Amplified water stress was indicated by dendrochronological parameters on sites with shallow soils.


Biometeorology Dendrochronology Drought Plant-water relations Quercus robur L. 



We thank two anonymous referees for critical review of the manuscript. Oaks were cored in Villa Anneberg under licence from the City of Helsinki (HKR 2007-814). This study was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant #122033).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Helama
    • 1
  • A. Läänelaid
    • 2
  • J. Raisio
    • 3
  • H. Tuomenvirta
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Institute of GeographyUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  3. 3.The City of HelsinkiThe Public Works Department, Street and Park DivisionHelsinkiFinland
  4. 4.Finnish Meteorological InstituteHelsinkiFinland

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