Water stress limits transpiration and growth of European larch up to the lower subalpine belt in an inner-alpine dry
MetadataShow full item record
* Climate change will further constrain water availability in dry inner‐alpine environments and affect water relations and growth conditions in mountain forests, including the widespread larch forests. * To estimate the effects of climate conditions on water balance and growth, variation in sap flow and stem radius of European larch was measured for 3 yr along an elevation transect from 1070 to 2250 m above sea level (asl) in an inner‐alpine dry valley in South Tyrol/Italy. Additionally, long‐term climate–growth relations were derived from tree cores. * Sap flow and radial growth were reduced in dry periods up to an elevation of 1715 m, leading to maximum annual growth at 2000 m. In a wet year no growth difference between elevations was observed. Long‐term tree ring data showed a positive growth response to precipitation up to 1715 m and to temperature only above 2000 m. * Our results demonstrate that reduced water availability and higher atmospheric water demand limit larch at low elevation within dry Alpine regions. This indicates a general upward shift of this species’ elevational amplitude upon climate change, and respective negative effects on future silvicultural use and ecosystem services at lower elevations in the European Alps.