Modelling future temporal and spatial growth dynamics of Pinus sylvestris across Europe
The past and future of forests are unequivocally controlled and determined by global climate. Constraining the uncertainties within this multifaceted relationship has been the focus of vast research efforts. A spatial perspective, however, is often neglected. Using the geographical constraints (e.g. latitude, altitude) and climatic drivers of tree dynamics as a benchmark, we address the spatial patterns and changes of forest growth at a continental scale and quantify the forest growth response to recent climate change. We compile an extensive network of tree-ring data from 390 Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) sites and explore past growth rates and trends across the species’ European distribution (from 40°N to 70°N). We develop an empirical model based on tree-rings to forecast potential growth changes with respect to the latest Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios until the end of the 21st century. Our results indicate significant changes in growth patterns during the past century, modulated by altitudinal and latitudinal gradients across Europe. The growth of Scots pine is highly sensitive to warmer and drier climates, and our model suggests that productivity will change dramatically due to the projected climatic shifts. The results provide unique and insightful evidence of how climate change could lead to growth decreases between 20% and 50% in some areas, entailing major economic and ecological consequences.