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BuTaKli: subproject ALU1: Does mixing beech (fagus sylvatica) and fir (abies alba) improve the tolerance of trees to drought stress?

concluded 01/2020


In the context of climate change forestry faces huge challenges: extreme events, e.g. drought, heat, high precipi-tation or flooding, will occur more often, in higher intensities and in modified seasonal pattern. Extreme events are affecting forest ecosystems particularly as the natural adaptability to these relatively rare and unpredictable events is quite limited. Nevertheless, increasing the adaptability of forest ecosystems is important, as an in-creased burden by extreme events of climate change is faster than the regeneration of forests. However, silvicul-tural measures to actively increase resistance and resilience of forests are considered useful. In the current pro-gram seven projects integrate biogeochemical, ecophysiological, and socio-economic research to search for sil-vicultural measures for the adaptation of beech forests to the extreme events of climate change by co-cultivation with white-fir.
The central hypothesis of BuTaKli is: Co-cultivation with white-fir increases the vigour of beech against ex-treme events of climate change, especially long lasting dry and hot periods followed by high precipitation (Dry-ing-Wetting-Cycles).
Especially in the Upper Rhine valley and in the Black Forest, Drying-Wetting-Cycles are characteristic of cur-rent and future climatic changes. The studies are carried out in this region, supplemented by studies at the south-ern border of natural beech-fir forests in Croatia to characterize the limitations of the interactions of the two species.
The research program investigates, if the manipulation of stand structures and tree species composition increases resistance and resilience of forest stands to drought. Complementary interactions might occur, as white-fir bene-fits from reduced interception, increased trunk-flow, and shallow root system of neighbouring beech trees. In turn beech trees are thought to benefit from reduced root competition and increased water supply through the so-called “hydraulic lift” by the deep-rooted fir trees. In case the results reveal these positive effects, this would be a promising basis to promote the co-cultivation of white-fir with beech as an alternative to Douglas fir or spruce.
The characterization of the consequences of the interactions between beech and white-fir trees on the pedosphere and the biosphere at various spatial (process, species, ecosystem) and temporal (past, presence, future) scales, their feedback loops on atmospheric parameters, and the identification of the implementation potential and its evaluation are additional aims of BuTaKli.
The project will generate knowledge that will motivate research on tree species mixtures all over Germany: Which synergistic and/or antagonistic interactions under climate change can be expected? Especially the mixture of white-fir and beech has explicit, but not evaluated, silvicultural potential. The socio-economic studies within BuTaKli address this general question of forestry. Additionally, a direct mitigation effect of mixing conifers with beech has to be considered, as a higher percentage of biomass from broadleaved trees is converted into heat compared to conifers; which is mainly used as construction wood.

Supervision:Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bauhus
Resaercher:Dr. Julia Sohn
Duration:10/2015 - 10/2018
Partner:Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), Institut für Meteorologie und Klimaforschung,
Atmosphärische Umweltforschung KIT/IMK-IFU), Abteilung Bio-Geo-Chemische Prozesse


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