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“DRIeR” Drought impacts processes and resilience: making the invisible visible

concluded 02/2020


In the future, climate change is expected to lead to more frequent and severe droughts in many parts of the world. Events such as the extreme hot and dry summer of 2003 necessitate the development of strategies to cope with drought and its impacts on the environment and society. The DRIeR project is a unique and interdisciplinary network that brings together researchers and stakeholders from a wide range of water-related sectors who aim at:

  • investigating the impacts of drought and increasing the visibility of cross-disciplinary research on drought to a wide range of decision makers; and
  • developing research and knowledge exchange on the emerging drought hazard and risk in Baden-Württemberg.

Scientists from hydrology, historical climatology, silviculture, plant ecology, geography, law, and environmental policy, combine their scientific approaches to investigate the impacts of drought as well as the processes causing, intensifying, or mitigating the impacts of drought. The overall approach of DRIeR will be to learn from the past in order to understand the present and manage the future.

Within the DRIeR network, the main focus of our sub-project is on investigating the impacts of drought on oak (Quercus robur L.) forests. In Europe, Q. robur is a regular constituent of wet lowlands in the vicinity of streams and rivers. This natural range of oak dominated forests coincides with regions that receive increasing pressure by the demands of the growing population (e.g. extraction of groundwater and hydro-technical measures for intensive agriculture and irrigation, drinking water supply etc.). In addition, within the last decades, incidents of oak forest decline and mortality have been observed. These have been attributed to a complex interplay between biotic and abiotic factors. Accordingly, we intent to investigate the effects of other stressors that are known to be related to drought, such as outbreaks of defoliating insects, on growth and mortality of oaks, which can be detrimental for forest health and tree survival.
Our study will be conducted in sites where the withdrawal of groundwater or other hydro-technical measures has led to persistently lowered groundwater levels. Forests and trees at such sites have already been exposed to prolonged dry conditions, which can be considered analogous to the conditions expected in the future. This natural experiment will allow us to investigate both the effects of long-term water deficits and of single extreme drought events on growth and mortality of oaks. Tree-ring analyses, wood anatomical measurements and stable wood isotope analyses will be performed to retrospectively study the effects of drought on oak trees.

Supervisors:Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bauhus, Dr. Julia Sohn
Researcher:Georgios Skiadaresis
Funding:MWK Baden-Württemberg
Duration:2016 - 2020


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