Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2024.110696
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) Assessing the impact of multi-year droughts on German forests in the context of increased tree mortality
Author Holtmann, A.; Huth, A.; Bohn, F.; Fischer, R. ORCID logo
Source Titel Ecological Modelling
Year 2024
Department OESA; CHS
Volume 492
Page From art. 110696
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Keywords Forest modelling; Individual-based; Drought; Forest; Productivity; Germany

Forests play a crucial role in climate regulation and societal well-being. Despite their significance, the increasing frequency of droughts poses a severe threat to forest ecosystems, impacting carbon sequestration and forest stability. In Germany, the unprecedented 2018–2020 drought resulted in extensive tree mortality and damaged wood volume, with lasting effects observed in subsequent years. As climate models project a continuation of such droughts, understanding the impact of droughts on forests becomes imperative. However, it is unclear how forests will evolve in the future if the drought duration continues to increase.

This study employs a forest model to analyze the impact of droughts across various German forest types, focusing on the duration of drought periods and their influence on forest productivity. By utilizing an individual-based forest growth model and national forest inventories, the study addresses critical knowledge gaps regarding the effects of multi-year droughts on biomass and productivity across various forest types, including monocultures and mixed forests. The simulations consider a drought-induced large increase in tree mortality caused by factors such as pest infestations and diseases across Germany.

Our simulation results reveal a declining aboveground biomass and gross primary production (GPP) for all simulated drought scenarios, including the three- and six-year drought. GPP is reduced by 46 % in the 3-year drought scenario and by 58 % in the 6-year drought scenario. Notably, prolonged droughts lead to cumulative losses, with a saturation effect in drought scenarios exceeding eight years. Forest stand composition influences these impacts, with greater GPP losses in low-biomass stands. Furthermore, different forest types exhibit varying responses. Monocultures and even-sized forests (mostly planted and managed forests) are more sensitive to drought than mixed and uneven-sized forests.

The results provide valuable insights into forest resilience and ecosystem responses to increasingly frequent and prolonged droughts, highlighting the importance of understanding the effects of drought on monocultures and mixed forests to inform future forest management strategies. Modelling the influence of biotic factors on forest dynamics in a process-based manner remains a challenge that requires future research.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Holtmann, A., Huth, A., Bohn, F., Fischer, R. (2024):
Assessing the impact of multi-year droughts on German forests in the context of increased tree mortality
Ecol. Model. 492 , art. 110696 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2024.110696