Meyer, BF; Buras, A; Rammig, A; Zang, CS (2020). Higher susceptibility of beech to drought in comparison to oak. DENDROCHRONOLOGIA, 64, 125780.

The expected increase in drought severity and frequency as a result of anthropogenic climate change leads to concerns about the ability of native tree species to cope with these changes. To determine the susceptibility of Fagus sylvatica (European beech) and Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) - the two dominant deciduous tree species in Central Europe - to drought, we quantified the climate sensitivity and drought-response of radial growth for both species using an array of dendroecological methods. Tree-ring data were collected from a site east of Coburg, Bavaria which had shown pronounced stress-symptoms (early leaf coloration) during the record drought of 2018. Climate-growth relationships were used to establish the sensitivity of radial growth to multiple climatic variables. The impact of specific drought events on tree growth was quantified using tolerance indices. In addition, we employed a Principal Component Gradient Analysis (PCGA) and remote sensing data (MODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)) to delineate the species specific drought responses. Using these methods we were able to show a clear difference in drought susceptibility between beech and oak. Beech dis played a higher sensitivity to temperature and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) and showed lower resistance and resilience to drought events than oak. In particular, beech was unable to fully recover from the 2003 drought, after which it expressed a stark growth decline, i.e. drought legacies, which was not observed for oak. The PCGA revealed a clear differentiation in the grouping of drought responses between beech and oak, supporting the findings of the climate-growth analysis and the tolerance indices. Correlations of NDVI and ring-width indices (RWI) indicated that under normal climatic conditions NDVI variability is linked to the start of the growing season. This is in contrast to drought years, such as 2003, where summer NDVI mirrored the drought response of beech and oak. These results reveal beech to have both a higher sensitivity to summer temperature and SPEI and a higher susceptibility to drought events. Although, in the past high plasticity and adaptability to drought have been attributed to both beech and oak, our study assigns beech a higher risk than oak to suffer from anticipated increases in drought frequency and intensity as a consequence of climate change.