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Ecological Bases of Forest Growth

How is the growth and inter-specific competition of beech and oak affected by changing climate conditions

With increasing temperature and declining (summer-) precipitation competition between tree species in Baden-Württemberg will change. Shifts in the relationship between Norway spruce and silver fir, but also between pedunculate and sessile beech are of particular interest for forest management in Baden-Württemberg. In the context of the PhD-project we will investigate how changing climate conditions will affect the competition between sessile oak and beech.
An important indicator of competitive strength among tree species is the height growth. Additionally short-term reactions of radial growth due to extreme weather events (droughts) will be analyzed.
Based on climate and soil data (water balance) we will select appropriate stands along a site gradient in Baden-Württemberg. For the selected trees a detailed stem analysis will be carried out (height and diameter increment). Genetic analyses will be conducted in case morphological indicators do not allow a reliable determination of the oak species.
As a result of the project, detailed conclusions for the height growth of European beech and sessile oak on sites differing in water availability are expected. Furthermore we hope to get deeper insight into the competitive relationship between beech and oak along a climate gradient. The findings will help to improve the silvicultural treatment of mixed beech-oak-stands.


 ResearchersArno Mattes, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker
 FundingForst BW and Institute for forest growth







Growth responses and cell characteristics of silver fir (Abies alba) and Norway spruce (Picea abies) at different altitudes in south-western Germany

This research project investigates the effect of climate and weather conditions on the growth of silver fir and Norway spruce. In the southern Black Forest, sites were selected based on the soil conditions, a south-west exposure and altitude. A differentiation has been made between the growth reaction of young (40-60 years) and older (80-120 years) trees. Radial growth and height data are supplemented by intra-annual parameters, such as cell structure (cell wall thickness, cell diameter) and wood density. These parameters will give more insight in the physical conditions the trees experienced. This data is combined with climate data, derived from the German Climate Service. This research will enable to derive estimates about tree-growth reactions, related to a different seasonality of precipitation patterns and drought events expected from future climate change scenarios.

Researcher    M.J.C. van der Maaten-Theunissen, Dr. Hans-Peter. Kahle, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker
Funding Graduiertenförderung des Landes Baden-Württemberg
Duration 01.11.2008 – 30.10.2011


Dendrochronological studies of driftwood in North-East Greenland. Reconstruction of postglacial climate variability, Arctic Ocean current and uplift process

The “Karupelv Valley Project” in North-East Greenland is an ongoing long term study of lemming population dynamics and their interactions with predators.
Drift wood occurs on several sites in North East Greenland. The role of driftwood as an indicator of the Arctic Oceanic current system over the time may provide new insights into former and ongoing changes affecting the Polar Basin.
There is also a high potential for the development of ultra-long tree-ring chronologies from the boreal zone, which may allow annual resolved temperature reconstructions over millennia.
Driftwood from the Greenland coast has to be counted among the valuable sources for palaeoenvironmental studies. It is advisable to take the geological context always into consideration. However, all sub-fossil wood is a source at risk and subjected to decay and further dislocation.


Researcher      Willy Tegel, Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker
Funding various sources
Duration long lasting
Partner Institute for Landscape Management, University of Freiburg, Germany
Swiss Federal Research Institute (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland


Tree ring based reconstructions of cultural, environmental and climatic change in central Europe throughout the Holocene

In this project, we will perform the first systematic extraction of climatic information contained in over 9000 oak (Quercus spp.) and silver fir (Abies alba) tree ring series spanning the past 3000 years. These data were collected over the past decade primarily from archaeological sites in northeast France and southwest Germany, and we believe this compilation has reached a critical mass (e.g., length, sample replication, no gaps) to allow paleoclimatic, ecological, and historical questions to be comprehensively addressed.
Species specific reactions to summer moisture stress will be identified, compared, and then optimally combined to reconstruct hydroclimatic variations over the past 3000 years. Differences in growth reactions at high (inter-annual), middle (multi-decadal), and low (multi-centennial) frequencies will be investigated to characterize short, middle and long-term changes in summer moisture availability over the past 3000 years.

By capitalizing upon the rich data archives and interdisciplinary synergies, the group of experts involved in this project expect to i) develop regional multi-millennial oak and fir chronologies, ii) analyze the within and between species reactions to drought, iii) reconstruct the intensity and spatiotemporal patterns of precipitation extremes and episodes (e.g., droughts), iv) link reconstructed changes in high to low-frequency hydroclimatic variation with synoptic forcing, and v) provide new assessments for the relationships between climate variation and human history.


Researcher     Willy Tegel, Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker, Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg
Funding DFG
Duration 2011-2014


Analysis of the influences of changing environmental conditions on radial displacement and secondary growth of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) along an altitudinal gradient in the south-western Black Forest

Along an altitudinal gradient (450 m, 750 m and 1250 m a.s.l.) in the south-western Black Forest, the stem radial displacement of European beech and Norway spruce is detected continuously by dendrometers in high spatial and temporal resolution. On selected individuals, the radial displacement is also measured on light- and shade-branches and on roots. Simultaneously the environmental parameters precipitation, air temperature, relative humidity and soil moisture are measured.
For validation of this partly 20 year long data series, increment cores and stem discs of trees will be sampled in order to measure year-ring width, cell structures and density variations. For the temporal attribution of the cell structures and density profiles, the wood samples will be combined with the dendrometer data.
The analysis is supposed to increase knowledge and understanding about the interactions between different site factors on the short-, medium- and long-term growth behavior of the two tree species. Special emphasize will be the analysis of the reaction of the two species to the drought of 2003 and other climatic extreme events. By comparison of the growth behavior on different elevation sites, it is expected to gain deeper insights and understanding about the influence of changing environmental conditions on tree growth.


Researcher       Dominik Stangler, Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle,
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker
Funding various sources
Duration 01.07.2010 - 31.06.2013



Climate-sensitive growth dynamics and drought resistance of Douglas-fir provenances (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirb.] Franco)

The growth response of Douglas-fir provenances to climatic alterations is the main scope of this project. Differences in intra-annual growth dynamics between various provenances to changes in climate conditions will be investigated. Since growth reactions to meteorological variations are strongly genetically controlled differences in cambial activity responses between different provenances will be examined in order to detect differences in drought resistance. Particular attention will be given to extreme events such as heat and drought. Growth patterns will be studied on different temporal scales. The sensitivity of growth as well as the elasticity of growth under different climate scenarios will be assessed for the different provenances. Analyses of density variations and cell structures within tree rings are of special interest.

Researcher Bela Bender, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker
Funding DFG
Duration 01.09.2010 – 30.08.2013



 Forest growth research in the tropics and subtropics

Increment zones in tropical trees can be induced by seasonally altering growth conditions like dry seasons or flooding periods (e.g., Varzéa forests in the Amazon region). The knowledge of the growth dynamics of tropical trees and their growth behavior under different and varying environmental conditions allows a better understanding of important structures and processes in tropical forest ecosystems. This knowledge forms the basis for the development of sustainable management strategies for different tropical forest ecosystems. Further it will help to get a better understanding of the functioning of tropical forests in the global climate system.

The Institute for Forest Growth in collaboration with partners from the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Curitiba, Brazil) investigates the intra- and interannual growth dynamics of domestic tree species of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica), one of the most endangered ecosystems of the World. At the same time the knowledge on the climatic impact on growth and wood quality of economically important plantation tree-species (such as Eucalyptus spp.) will be deepened.

The Institute for Forest Growth aims to develop and apply innovative measurement and analysis methods adapted to tropical trees. In particular the newly developed method of High-Frequency Densitometry, by which large numbers of samples can be measured automatically, will be used.


Researcher        Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Heinrich Spiecker, Dr. Hans-Peter KahleMartin Schinker

Dr. Antonio R. Higa, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Ciências Florestais , Curitiba
Dr. Renato Marques, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Ciências Agrárias, Curitiba

SPVS - Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental, Curitiba
Funding various sources
Duration long lasting


Growth monitoring of spruce, pine, aspen and birch in the middle Taiga zone, Komi, NW-Russia

In a close to nature mature mixed species stand at the Forest Research Station Lyaly the changes in radial dimension of the stems of spruce (Picea obovata), pine (Pinus sylvestris), aspen (Populus tremulus) and birch (Betula spec.) is measured in high time resolution. On a subset of the sample trees the electrical conductivity of the stem is measured in five minutes time steps. Simultaneously air temperature, precipitation, air humidity, as well as soil moisture is measured. At the site changes in the earth magnetic field are registered with a magnetometer. The analyses of the data will help to better understand the role of different environmental factors for tree growth with respect to short-, medium- and long-term responses of tree growth.


Project website: http://mekri.joensuu.fi/cambiforrus/


Researchers  Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Felix Baab, Olaf Grobbel,
Prof. Dr. Heinrich Spiecker
Partners- Institute of Biology, Komi Scientific Center, Syktyvkar, Komi,
  Russian Federation: Dr. Eugene Lopatin
- University of Joensuu, Mekrijärvi Research Station, Finland:
  Prof. Dr. Taneli Kolström
- Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radiowaves
  Propagation, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation: Prof. Oleg M.
, Prof. Valentin A. Dergachev
- Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden-Institute, Apatity, Russian
  Federation: Prof. Alexander Kuzmin
- State Hydrological Institute, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation:
  Prof. Oleg Anisimov


Impacts of extremely warm and dry weather conditions on the growth of Norway spruce and common beech along altitudinal transects in the southern Black Forest.

The impacts of extremely warm and dry weather conditions on the diameter and height growth of Norway spruce and common beech are retrospectively analyzed by considering tree age and site conditions. Sample trees have been cut along altitudinal transects on south-west and north-east facing slopes in the southern Black Forest. Stem analyses provided data on annual radial and annual or periodic height growth. Meteorological data from nearby meteo stations are provided by the German Weather Service. Effects of tree age and tree developmental stage on growth sensitivity and recovery following drought stress are analyzed by comparing growth responses of young and old tree cohorts.

Researcher    Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Prof. Dr. Heinrich Spiecker
PartnerForest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA) Freiburg, Department of Forest Ecology: Dr. Eberhard Aldinger


Monitoring the growth of Norway spruce, European beech and Scots pine in the Black Forest, on the Swabian Alb and in the upper Rhine valley

On the Schauinsland near Freiburg, on the ARINUS plots in the forest district of Schluchsee, on research plots in the forest district of Tuttlingen and in the upper Rhine valley close to Hartheim, on various sites, changes in radial growth of the trunks of Norway spruce, European Beech and Scots pine are measured continuously with high resolution. In addition, at selected trees, radial variation of stem expansion in higher parts of the stem, on branches, as well as on roots are measured. Also, temperature (air temperature, cambial and soil temperature), air humidity and soil humidity, and phenophase dates are measured. It is expected that the analysis will provide information on the effects of various site factors on the research sites on the short-, medium- and long-term tree growth reactions. By comparing growth reactions at various elevations, a more detailed insight into the environmental effects on tree growth is expected.


Resarcher    Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Felix Baab, Olaf Grobbel, Prof. Dr. Heinrich Spiecker
PartnersMeteorologisches Institut der Geowissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg


Dendroecological analyses for the project "Environmental and climate archives" in the southern Andes: A key for understanding global interactions

This interdisciplinary research project (http://www.grancampo.de/) is co-ordinated by PD Dr. Rolf Kilian from the University of Trier, Germany. The aim is to examine the recent climate as well as highly resolving climate and environmental archives of the southernmost Andes. The project intends to improve the knowledge of global climatic changes and the human impact on it. Besides dendroecological analyses of tree-ring sequences, lake sediment archives, peat, pollen and tephra profiles are analysed. Cross sections and increment cores of Pilgerodendron uviferum, Nothofagus betuloides, N. antarctica and N. pumilio have been sampled along an East-West Transect in the southernmost Andes of Chile. Some of these samples are prepared, measured and analysed in the tree-ring laboratories of the Institute for Forest Growth. In addition to retrospective studies, radial growth of sample trees is continuously measured at field measurement stations using point dendrometers.


Researcher    Dr. Hans-Peter Kahle, Prof. Dr. Heinrich Spiecker
PartnerPD Dr. Rolf Kilian, Chaor of Geology, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Trier






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