Nitrogen nutrition of beech forests in a changing climate: importance of plant-soil-microbe water, carbon, and nitrogen interactions
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For 15+ years, a beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) dominated forest on calcareous soil was studied on two opposing slopes with contrasting microclimate in Tuttlingen, Swabian Alb, Germany. The cool-humid NE aspect of these slopes represents the majority of beech forests under current climate, the warmer and drier SW aspect represents beech forests under future climate conditions. The field studies were supplemented by investigations under controlled conditions.
The research program aimed to provide a comprehensive understanding of plant-soil-microbe water, carbon and nitrogen feedbacks in a changing climate and a holistic view of the sensitivity of beech to climate change.
The results of comparative and experimental studies underpin the high vulnerability of adult beech and its natural regeneration on calcareous soil to both direct climate change effects on plant physiology and indirect effects mediated by soil biogeochemical cycles. Mechanisms contributing to this vulnerability at the ecosystem and organismic level indicate a high significance of competitive interactions of beech with other vegetation components and soil microbial communities. Obvious forest management practices such as selective felling did not necessarily counteract negative effects of climate change.