iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Drought-induced oak decline in the western Mediterranean region: an overview on current evidences, mechanisms and management options to improve forest resilience

Tiziana Gentilesca (1)   , J Julio Camarero (2), Michele Colangelo (1), Angelo Nolè (1), Francesco Ripullone (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 10, Issue 5, Pages 796-806 (2017)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2317-010
Published: Sep 25, 2017 - Copyright © 2017 SISEF

Review Papers

Increased forest vulnerability is being reflected as more widespread and severe drought-induced decline episodes. In particular, the Mediterranean area is revealing a high susceptibility to phenomena of loss in tree vitality across species. Within tree species, oaks (Quercus spp.) are experiencing extensive decline in many countries. However, in the wake of the so-called “oak decline phenomenon”, the attention on these species has generally been limited. In this paper, we review the current available literature on oak-decline cases reported within the Mediterranean Basin, with particular remark for those occurred in Italy and Spain. More specifically our main aims were to: (i) provide an update on the patterns and mechanisms of decline by focusing on tree-ring and wood-anatomical variables; (ii) provide some hints for improving the resistance and resilience of oak stands experiencing decline. Our review reveals that drought is reported as the main driver triggering oak decline within the Mediterranean Basin, although other causes (i.e., increasing temperature, pathogens attack or excessive stand density) could exacerbate decline. In most reported cases, drought induced a substantial reduction of growth and changes in some wood anatomical properties. Indeed, growth decline prior death is also indicated as an early-warning signal of impending death. In ring-porous oak species, declining trees were often characterized by a very low production of latewood and a decrease in lumen area of the widest earlywood vessels, suggesting a potential reduction of hydraulic conductivity. Moreover, hydraulic dysfunction is reported as the main cause of decline. Finally, regarding management actions that should be considered for improving the resilience of declining stands and preserve the species-specific stand composition, it could be useful to shorten the rotation period of coppice stands or promoting their gradual conversion towards high forests, and favoring more drought-resistant species should also be considered. In addition, regeneration prior to regeneration cuts should be improved by anticipating seed dispersal or by planting oak seedlings obtained from local germoplasm.


Growth, Adaptive Forest Management, Quercus, Resilience, Forest Dieback

Authors’ address

Tiziana Gentilesca
Michele Colangelo
Angelo Nolè
Francesco Ripullone
School of Agricultural, Forest, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Basilicata, Potenza (Italy)
J Julio Camarero
Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE-CSIC), Avda. Montañana 1005, 50192 Zaragoza (Spain)

Corresponding author

Tiziana Gentilesca


Gentilesca T, Camarero JJ, Colangelo M, Nolè A, Ripullone F (2017). Drought-induced oak decline in the western Mediterranean region: an overview on current evidences, mechanisms and management options to improve forest resilience. iForest 10: 796-806. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2317-010

Academic Editor

Tamir Klein

Paper history

Received: Dec 15, 2016
Accepted: Jul 12, 2017

First online: Sep 25, 2017
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2017
Publication Time: 2.50 months

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