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Recent spruce decline with biotic pathogen infestation as a result of interacting climate, deposition and soil variables

Cienciala, Emil, Tumajer, Jan, Zatloukal, Vladimír, Beranová, Jana, Holá, Šárka, Hůnová, Iva, Russ, Radek
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.2 pp. 307-317
Armillaria ostoyae, Picea abies, acid deposition, altitude, autocorrelation, climate, edaphic factors, exudation, forest damage, forest decline, forest inventory, forest soils, forest stands, forests, fungi, mechanical damage, nitrogen, pathogens, peeling, principal component analysis, regression analysis, solar radiation, sulfur, tree crown, trees, water stress, Central European region, Czech Republic
Decline or health deterioration of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) dominated forest stands has recently been observed mainly in sub-mountainous parts of Central Europe. Forest inventory of 208 randomly distributed circular plots including field observations of spruce tree health and rot symptoms by honey fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) was used for assessing intensity of spruce forest health decline in a managed forest area of 12.7 th. ha located in Beskids Mts., NE Czech Republic. First, principal component analysis was used to separate inventory variables related to environmental stress (reduced apical increment, dry tree top and stem resin exudation due to A. ostoyae infestation) into PC1, and health deterioration symptoms associated with mechanical damage (peeling, crown breaks) into PC2. The first two principal components explained 59% of the total variability in health decline symptoms. Spatial variability of both principal components was explained using spatial lag regression model identified from a set of environmental variables including sulfur and nitrogen deposition, elevation, solar radiation, age of the forest stands and geological properties (geochemical reactivity index). Environmental stress (PC1) was associated with low elevations (sub-optimal for spruce), high level of nitrogen and sulfur deposition (their interaction), low geochemical reactivity and also stand age. On the other hand, mechanical damage (PC2) significantly increased with elevation and stand age. As the forest decline in Beskids Mts. is related to A. ostoyae spreading from local infestation hot spots, both principal components had a significant spatial autocorrelation, partly distorting the signal of environmental conditions. The results indicate that the disturbed forest soils by long-term acid deposition and subsequent nutrient degradation and more pronounced drought stress at low elevations are the most important drivers of the recent spruce health decline in Beskids Mts.