Forest Ecology and Management vol:312 pages:252-259
Global and local environmental changes can cause signiﬁcant changes in forest growth with important consequences for forest management. Although effects of climate change on tree growth are expected to be more pronounced near the edge of a geographic species range, signiﬁcant changes in growth of common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) over the last century have also been reported for the West-European temperate lowland, where the species is situated near its climatic optimum.
In this article we examined whether similar long-term growth trends in common beech could be observed over the last century on the most productive soils, i.e. on the loamy soils of the loess belt in Flanders, Belgium, as those described for other regions in Europe, or whether these productive sites buffer environmental change impact.
Applying both linear and non-linear mixed modelling approaches, similar historical changes were revealed in the growth of beech throughout the last century. Radial growth of common beech was found to be characterized by a long-term increase, reaching its maximum in the 1960–1980s, followed by a decrease. With a maximum increase of 21–24% compared to the reference year of 1900 and down to 8–21% in 2008, the observed long-term changes are showing very similar trends to the observations reported for other European regions, but somewhat lower in magnitude. These ﬁndings suggest an overall recent decreased vigour of common beech in Europe, although highly productive sites buffer environmental
changes better than low productive sites near the edge of the species range.