Radial stem growth of major coniferous forest trees in the Alps in response to drought (2010-2013)

Radial stem growth of major coniferous forest trees in the Alps in response to drought (2010-2013)

Within the dry inner Alpine valley of the Inn river (Tyrol, Austria) mixed stands of three major coniferous species in the Austrian Alps (Norway spruce [Picea abies], European larch [Larix decidua] and Scots pine [Pinus sylvestris]) are developed, which provide the opportunity to focus on species-specific differences in drought tolerance on the same site. Dendroclimatological techniques will be applied to study the inter-annual relationship and long-term variability between climate and radial stem growth. Additionally, by applying ecophysiological methods the influence of tree water status and carbon supply on radial stem growth will be determined. Daily radial stem increments will be extracted from dendrometer traces and compared with cambial dynamics and xylogenesis, which will be determined by repeated cellular analyses of micro-cores. All recorded physiological parameters will be linked to meteorological variables, soil moisture dynamics and tree phenology to detect species-specific influences of climate and site conditions on intra-annual radial growth and the growing season.

Research Questions
Aim of the study is to determine drought sensitivity of co-occurring native coniferous tree species, which differ in phenological and successional traits, by applying dendroclimatological, ecophysiological and histological techniques. Understanding tree growth responses to climatic stresses is an essential element of climate change research, because species-specific drought resistance will effect the development of forest ecosystems under a warmer and drier climate by changing species composition and inducing shifts in forest distribution, especially within dry inner Alpine valleys.

FWF P22280-B16 [Link]

Personnel involved
Schuster Roman 
Swidrak Irene 
Oberhuber Walter

Universitätsdozent Dr. Gerhard Wieser [Link]
Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape


  • Oberhuber W, W Kofler, R Schuster, G Wieser (2014) Environmental effects on stem water deficit in co-occurring conifers exposed to soil dryness. International Journal of Biometeorology, doi: 10.1007/s00484-014-0853-1 [ Pdf ]
  • Swidrak I, A Gruber, W Oberhuber (2014) Xylem and phloem phenology in co-occurring conifers exposed to drought. Trees, doi: 10.1007/s00468-014-1026-x [ Pdf ]
  • Oberhuber W, A Gruber, W Kofler, I Swidrak (2014) Radial growth in response to microclimate and soil moisture in a drought-prone mixed coniferous forest at an inner Alpine site. European Journal of Forest Research, DOI: 10.1007/s10342-013-0777-z [ Pdf ]
  • Schuster R., W. Oberhuber (2013) Age- dependent climate-growth relationships and regeneration of Picea abies in a drought-prone mixed coniferous forest in the Alps. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 43(7): 599 - 608; doi: 10.1139/cjfr-2012-0426
  • Swidrak I., R. Schuster, W. Oberhuber (2013) Comparing growth phenology of co-occurring deciduous and evergreen conifers exposed to drought. Flora 208, doi: 10.1016/j.flora.2013.09.004
  • Schuster R., W. Oberhuber (2012) Drought sensitivity of three co-occurring conifers within a dry inner Alpine environment. Trees, DOI 10.1007/s00468-012-0768-6