Changes in radial growth have been used to estimate tree decline probability since they may indicate tree responses to long- and short-term stressors. We used visual assessments of crown defoliation, an indicator of decline, and retrospective tree-ring analyses to determine whether climate-growth sensitivity and tree growth rates may be used as predictors of tree die-off probability in Abies alba (silver fir) at the Spanish Pyrenees. We used climatic data to calculate standardized temperature and precipitation data and drought indexes. Basal area increment was measured for declining (defoliation 〉 50%) and nondeclining (defoliation 〈 50%) silver firs in stands with contrasting defoliation. Logistic regressions were applied to predict tree die-off. Since the early 1980s, a synchronised reduction in basal area increment was observed in declining trees. The basal area increment trend correctly classified 64% of declining trees and 94% of nondeclining trees. The growth sensitivity to water deficit, temperature, and a drought index also significantly predicted silver fir decline, but providing underestimated predictions. Our findings underscore the idea that long-term climatic warming seems to be a major driver of growth decline in silver fir. Ongoing growth reduction and enhanced mortality may promote vegetation shifts in declining Pyrenean A. alba forests.
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition