Long-Term Responses of Mediterranean Mountain Forests to Climate Change, Fire and Human Activities in the Northern Apennines (Italy)

Morales-Molino, César; Steffen, Marianne; Samartin, Stéphanie; van Leeuwen, Jacqueline F. N.; Hürlimann, Daniel; Vescovi, Elisa; Tinner, Willy (2020). Long-Term Responses of Mediterranean Mountain Forests to Climate Change, Fire and Human Activities in the Northern Apennines (Italy) (In Press). Ecosystems, pp. 1-17. Springer 10.1007/s10021-020-00587-4

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Fagus sylvatica (beech) dominates the montane forests of the Apennines and builds old-growth high-conservation value stands. However, recent severe drought-induced diebacks raise concern on the future persistence of these forests and of Southern European mesophilous woodlands overall, growing at their dry edge. To explore the history of Apennine beech-dominated forests, we draw on the multiproxy paleoecological record from Lago Verdarolo, which includes a robust vegetation-independent temperature reconstruction. Numerical techniques are used to investigate the drivers of long-term Mediterranean mountain forest dynamics. Specifically, we focus on disentangling the ecological factors that caused the shift from high-diversity mixed forests to beech-dominated stands and on assessing the occurrence of legacy effects on present-day forests. Abrupt climate change largely drove vegetation dynamics during the Late Glacial and Early Holocene. Species-rich mixed Abies alba (silver fir) forests dominated about 10,500—5500 years ago, under rather dry and warmer-than-today conditions (+ 1—2 °C) and limited fire occurrence. Cooler and moister summers and increasing fire activity caused declines in several fire-sensitive temperate deciduous trees (for example, Ulmus, Tilia, Fraxinus) and favored the establishment of fir-beech forests around 5500 years ago. Further enhancement of fire activity and farming around 2000 years ago led to local Abies alba extinction and forest impoverishment. We conclude that the currently widespread monospecific Apennine beech forests are the result of multi-millennial land-use intensification superimposed on Late Holocene cooling and moistening. Given their higher drought-tolerance compared to beech stands, reviving ancient species-rich mixed fir forests represents a feasible and ‘tested’ possibility to adapt forests to climate change.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Morales del Molino, Cesar; Steffen, Marianne Therese Lore; Samartin, Stéphanie; van Leeuwen, Jacqueline; Hürlimann, Daniel; Vescovi, Elisa and Tinner, Willy

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1432-9840

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

14 Jan 2021 08:47

Last Modified:

14 Jan 2021 08:47

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s10021-020-00587-4

PubMed ID:

33288980

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.149726

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/149726

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