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Site-dependent sensitivity of tree-growth physiological processes to climate changes


Xi Qi, Jianfeng Liu, Paolo Cherubini

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research



Session Description

Global environmental changes such as rising temperatures, reduced water availability, increasing CO2 concentrations and excessive nitrogen deposition have significantly affected the tree growth, altering species composition and forest productivity. However, the sensitivity of tree growth to global climate change remains a matter of uncertainty and is largely dependent on the growing conditions. Factors such as nutrient levels, light exposure, temperature variations, and water accessibility throughout the growth stages play pivotal roles in influencing tree sensitivity. Therefore, it is imperative to thoroughly explore the varying tree sensitivity across regions and species, alongside a deeper comprehension of the underlying physiological processes and mechanisms. Such efforts are indispensable for accurately predicting the future trajectory of forest ecosystems in a changing world.

Tree rings are one of nature’s most versatile archives, providing insights into past environmental conditions at an annual and intra-annual resolution, from local to global scales. Besides being valued proxies for historical climate, tree rings are also important indicators of plant physiological responses to changing environments and of long-term ecological processes. The growth condition-dependent sensitivity of tree growth and related physiological processes to global climate change can be assessed using one or more of the following approaches:

(i) dendrochronological methods including studies based on tree-ring width, maximum density or Blue Intensity,

(ii) stable isotopes in tree rings and related plant compounds,

(iii) dendrochemistry,

(iv) quantitative wood anatomy,

(v) ecophysiological data analyses

(vi) mechanistic modeling, all across temporal and spatial scales.


Session Justification

Tree rings, as integral components of natural geography, serve as crucial records of environmental fluctuations such as climate variations, precipitation patterns, and fire occurrences. The width, density, and chemical composition of tree rings reflect the response of tree growth to climatic conditions, thereby providing support for studies on climate change. Additionally, tree rings reveal physiological responses of trees to their growth environment, enabling the assessment of ecosystem resilience to environmental changes and offering scientific foundations for ecosystem management. This research facilitates the understanding of site-specific sensitivity of tree growth physiological processes to climate change and supports evaluations of forest ecosystem structure and resource management strategies, promoting forest conservation and sustainable development. The session will include approx. 10 speakers.


One Sentence Session Summary

Enhancing our understanding of the sensitivity of different species growing at different sites, along with the involved physiological processes, is crucial for precisely predicting the future paths of forest ecosystems and implementing effective adaptive management strategies in a changing world.


Special Session

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