Annals of Forest Science

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 133–142 | Cite as

Relationship between tree morphology and growth stress in mature European beech stands

  • Delphine JullienEmail author
  • Robert Widmann
  • Caroline Loup
  • Bernard Thibaut
Original Paper



In European Beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) large growth stresses lead to severe log end splitting that devaluate beech timber. Our study aimed at detecting relationships between growth stress and some morphology parameters in trees.


Growth stress indicators were recorded for 440 mature trees in nine stands from five European countries, together with morphology parameters.


Most trees displayed an uneven distribution of growth stress around the trunk. Moreover, growth stress intensity varied largely between individual trees. Geometry of the trunk was a poor predictor of growth stress intensity. Crown asymmetry resulted in a larger stress dissymmetry within trees. Trunk inclination was not correlated to max tension stress, contrary to what is usually found in younger trees. In the case of small inclination, growth stress was close to expected from biomechanics of restoring verticality. Trees exhibiting a larger inclination probably evolved a different mechanical solution: a rather large crown, lower tree slenderness and a sufficient asymmetry in growth stress as to prevent a higher inclination due to growth.


A large slenderness is the best accurate predictor of a large growth stress, although variations in the ratio height/diameter at breast height explained only 10 % of the variability of growth stress. A large crown surface was the best predictor of a low level of growth stress. A large spacing between trees seems a good solution to lower the risk of growth stress in mature beech.


Beech Growth stress Tree morphology Forest management Dendrometric parameter 



The authors would like to thank all the people that have been involved in the huge campaign of data measurements and all the people that have collaborated to this large European project. They also would like to thank their colleague Tancrède Alméras who has helped a lot to conduct statistical data analyses of this paper.


This work was performed in the frame of the contract FAIR-98-3606 “Stresses in beech” supported by the European Commission (Becker and Beimgraben 2001).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delphine Jullien
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Widmann
    • 2
  • Caroline Loup
    • 1
  • Bernard Thibaut
    • 1
  1. 1.LMGC, UMR 5508 CNRSUniversité Montpellier 2Montpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.Materials Science and TechnologyEMPADübendorfSwitzerland

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