EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Assessment of changes in wood anatomical traits to forecast drought-induced dieback in Mediterranean oak forests

Michele Colangelo1,3, Angelo Rita2, Marco Borghetti1, J. Julio Camarero3, Raúl Sánchez-Salguero4, Luis Matias5, Osvaldo Pericolo1, and Francesco Ripullone1
Michele Colangelo et al.
  • 1School of Agricultural, Forest, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Basilicata, 85100 Potenza, Italy
  • 2Dipartimento di Agraria, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, via Università 100, IT-80055 Portici, Italy
  • 3Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain
  • 4DendrOlavide, University Pablo de Olavide, Crta. de Utrera km 1, 41013 Sevilla, Spain
  • 5Department of Plant Biology & Ecology, University of Seville, Av. Reina Mercedes s/n, 41012 Seville, Spain

Some tree species have shown to be very vulnerable to drought and heat waves in the Mediterranean Basin, causing a loss of important socio-economic and ecosystem forest services.  In this regard, oaks are important but vulnerable species which are showing losses in terms of productivity and growth and rising mortality rates. Dendroecological studies using retrospective analysis of wood anatomical traits and tree rings have demonstrated their potential to assess long-term patterns of growth and vigor in several Mediterranean oak species. Moreover, the long-term reconstruction of wood anatomical traits such as transversal lumen area, allows investigating hydraulic adjustments of trees through time.

In this study, we reconstructed changes in wood anatomy for a 38-year long period (1980-2017) to investigate how drought impacted the hydraulic functionality and triggered dieback in five ring-porous oak species from Italy and Spain (Quercus robur, Quercus frainetto, Quercus cerris, Quercus canariensis, Quercus pubescens). We compared non-decaying (ND) and decaying (D) coexisting trees of each species showing low and high defoliation levels, respectively. We analyzed earlywood anatomical traits (vessel area, hydraulic diameter, vessel density, theoretical hydraulic conductivity, etc.) in these species and analysed them considering a ranking of increasing drought tolerance: Q. robur, Q. frainetto, Q. cerris, Q. canariensis, and Q. pubescens.

We observed differing growth patterns and xylem conduit area responses in D trees compared with ND trees. The D trees formed narrower EW vessels than ND and the Dh were lower in D trees compared with ND trees. We discuss the relationships between radial growth, changes in wood anatomy and hydraulic functioning of trees focusing on those proved more sensitive to growth decline and mortality in order to highlight the climatic triggers of dieback in ring-porous oak species as related to hydraulic failure.

How to cite: Colangelo, M., Rita, A., Borghetti, M., Camarero, J. J., Sánchez-Salguero, R., Matias, L., Pericolo, O., and Ripullone, F.: Assessment of changes in wood anatomical traits to forecast drought-induced dieback in Mediterranean oak forests, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12088,, 2023.

Supplementary materials

Supplementary material file