iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Species-specific responses of wood growth to flooding and climate in floodplain forests in Central Germany

Heike Heklau (1)   , Gottfried Jetschke (2), Helge Bruelheide (1-3), Gunnar Seidler (1), Sylvia Haider (1-3)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 12, Issue 3, Pages 226-236 (2019)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2845-012
Published: May 03, 2019 - Copyright © 2019 SISEF

Research Articles

With ongoing climate change, episodes of severe flooding are predicted to become more frequent despite a general trend towards increasing summer drought. We investigated how wood growth of adult trees of two species characteristic of floodplain forests in Central Germany (Fraxinus excelsior L., Quercus robur L.) and two less-typical species (Acer pseudoplatanus L., Carpinus betulus L.) responded to both maximum stream water level and climate, with a special focus on the effects of the extraordinary flood of the Saale River in June 2013 and the extreme drought in summer 1976. Tree-ring widths were measured on wood cores, and standardized ARSTAN tree-ring chronologies were produced. Using variance partitioning as well as linear mixed-effects models, we compared the effects of monthly values for maximum water level, temperature and precipitation sum on tree-ring width. Further, we calculated resistance, resilience and recovery of the tree species to the extreme events of flooding in 2013 and drought in 1976. Wood growth of all species studied, and particularly of F. excelsior, responded positively to the extraordinary flooding in June 2013. However, in the best models for the characteristic floodplain forest species (F. excelsior and Q. robur), mainly precipitation (F. excelsior) or a combination of precipitation and wood growth of the previous year (Q. robur) acted as drivers of wood growth of the current year. In contrast, growth of the less habitat-specific species (A. pseudoplatanus) mainly showed a significant response to the combination of temperature and wood growth of the previous year. C. betulus was the only species studied that benefited from the extreme drought in 1976. However, two years afterwards, only the wood growth of A. pseudoplatanus was still reduced, while F. excelsior and Q. robur fully recovered. In comparison to other regions in Central Europe, the moderate flood regime of the Saale River seems to have the potential to mitigate effects of summer drought in this region, which is one of the driest in Germany. Thus, increased flooding frequency might, to some degree, reduce drought effects brought about by climate change as well.


Tree-ring Width, Floodplain Forest, Flooding, Drought, Dendroecology, Fraxinus excelsior, Quercus robur, Acer pseudoplatanus

Authors’ address

Heike Heklau 0000-0003-3201-4178
Helge Bruelheide 0000-0003-3135-0356
Gunnar Seidler
Sylvia Haider 0000-0002-2966-0534
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute of Biology / Geobotany and Botanical Garden, Am Kirchtor 1, 06108 Halle (Germany)
Gottfried Jetschke 0000-0001-5839-9163
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Ecology, Dornburger Str. 159, 07743 Jena (Germany)
Helge Bruelheide 0000-0003-3135-0356
Sylvia Haider 0000-0002-2966-0534
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig (Germany)

Corresponding author


Heklau H, Jetschke G, Bruelheide H, Seidler G, Haider S (2019). Species-specific responses of wood growth to flooding and climate in floodplain forests in Central Germany. iForest 12: 226-236. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2845-012

Academic Editor

Jesus Julio Camarero

Paper history

Received: May 08, 2018
Accepted: Mar 10, 2019

First online: May 03, 2019
Publication Date: Jun 30, 2019
Publication Time: 1.80 months

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