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Soil water storage appears to compensate for climatic aridity at the xeric margin of European tree species distribution

  • Mellert, Karl H.1
  • Lenoir, Jonathan2
  • Winter, Susanne3
  • Kölling, Christian4
  • Čarni, Andraž5, 6
  • Dorado-Liñán, Isabel7
  • Gégout, Jean-Claude8
  • Göttlein, Axel1
  • Hornstein, Daniel9
  • Jantsch, Matthias10
  • Juvan, Nina5, 6
  • Kolb, Eckart1
  • López-Senespleda, Eduardo7
  • Menzel, Annette11, 12
  • Stojanović, Dejan13, 14
  • Täger, Steffen4
  • Tsiripidis, Ioannis15
  • Wohlgemuth, Thomas16
  • Ewald, Joerg9
  • 1 Technical University of Munich, Forest Nutrition and Water Resources, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, Freising, 85354, Germany , Freising (Germany)
  • 2 Université de Picardie Jules Verne, UR “Ecologie et dynamique des systèmes anthropisés” (EDYSAN, FRE 3498 CNRS-UPJV), 1 Rue des Louvels, Amiens Cedex 1, 80037, France , Amiens Cedex 1 (France)
  • 3 WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature, Reinhardtstr. 18, Berlin, 10117, Germany , Berlin (Germany)
  • 4 AELF Roth, Johann-Strauß-Str. 1, Roth, 91154, Germany , Roth (Germany)
  • 5 Institute of Biology, Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Novi trg 2, Ljubljana, 1000, Slovenia , Ljubljana (Slovenia)
  • 6 Univerza of Nova Gorica, Vipavska 13, Nova Gorica, 5000, Slovenia , Nova Gorica (Slovenia)
  • 7 Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA-CIFOR), Forest Research Centre, Ctra. A Coruña, km 7.5, Madrid, 28040, Spain , Madrid (Spain)
  • 8 Agro Paris Tech, INRA, LERFoB, Nancy, 54000, France , Nancy (France)
  • 9 University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan Triesdorf, Faculty of Forestry, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 3, Freising, 85354, Germany , Freising (Germany)
  • 10 Bayerische Landesanstalt für Wald und Forstwirtschaft, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 1, Freising, 85354, Germany , Freising (Germany)
  • 11 Technical University of Munich, Ecoclimatology, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, Freising, 85354, Germany , Freising (Germany)
  • 12 Institute for Advanced Study, Lichtenbergstr. 2a, Garching, 85748, Germany , Garching (Germany)
  • 13 University of Novi Sad, Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment, Antona Cehova 13d, Novi Sad, 21000, Serbia , Novi Sad (Serbia)
  • 14 University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Agriculture, Trg D. Obradovica 8, Novi Sad, 21000, Serbia , Novi Sad (Serbia)
  • 15 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Botany, School of Biology, Thessaloniki, 54124, Greece , Thessaloniki (Greece)
  • 16 Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, Birmensdorf, 8903, Switzerland , Birmensdorf (Switzerland)
Published Article
European Journal of Forest Research
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Dec 15, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s10342-017-1092-x
Springer Nature


Based on macroecological data, we test the hypothesis whether European tree species of temperate and boreal distribution maintain their water and nutrient supply in the more arid southern margin of their distribution range by shifting to more fertile soils with higher water storage than in their humid core distribution range (cf. soil compensatory effects). To answer this question, we gathered a large dataset with more than 200,000 plots that we related to summer aridity (SA), derived from WorldClim data, as well as soil available water capacity (AWC) and soil nutrient status, derived from the European soil database. The soil compensatory effects on tree species distribution were tested through generalized additive models. The hypothesis of soil compensatory effects on tree species distribution under limiting aridity was supported in terms of statistical significance and plausibility. Compared to a bioclimatic baseline model, inclusion of soil variables systematically improved the models’ goodness of fit. However, the relevance measured as the gain in predictive performance was small, with largest improvements for P. sylvestris, Q. petraea and A. alba. All studied species, except P. sylvestris, preferred high AWC under high SA. For F. sylvatica, P. abies and Q. petraea, the compensatory effect of soil AWC under high SA was even more pronounced on acidic soils. Soil compensatory effects might have decisive implications for tree species redistribution and forest management strategies under anthropogenic climate change. Therefore, soil compensatory effects deserve more intensive investigation, ideally, in studies combining different spatial scales to reduce the uncertainty associated with the precision of soil information.

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