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Forest condition in Europe: 2017 technical report of ICP Forests - Report under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP)

edited by: Alexa Michel, Walter Seidling

Summary. The International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests) is one of the most diverse programmes within the Working Group on Effects (WGE) under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). To provide a regular overview of the programme’s activities, the ICP Forests Programme Co-ordinating Centre (PCC) yearly publishes an ICP Forests Technical Report which summarises research highlights and provides an opportunity for all participating countries to report on their national ICP Forests activities. The PCC also invites all ICP Forests Expert Panels, Working Groups, and Committees to publish a comprehensive chapter on their most recent results from regular data evaluations.
This 2017 Technical Report presents results from up to 32 of the 42 countries participating in ICP Forests. Part A presents research highlights from the 2016/17 reporting period, including:
a review of this year’s 32 scientific publications for which ICP Forests data and/or the ICP Forests infrastructure were used;
a summary of the 5th ICP Forests Scientific Conference in Luxembourg in May 2016;
a list of all 49 ICP Forests research projects ongoing for at least one month between June 2016 and May 2017.
Part B focuses on regular evaluations from within the programme. This year the Technical Report includes chapters on:
the spatial variation of atmospheric throughfall deposition in forests in Europe in 2015;
trends in foliar nitrogen and phosphorus foliar concentrations and element ratios since 2000;
tree crown condition in 2016 including trend analyses;
selected meteorological stress indices for 2013–2015.
Part C includes national reports on ICP Forests activities from the participating countries.
For contact information of all authors and persons responsible in this programme, please refer to the annex at the end of this report. For more information on the ICP Forests programme, please visit the ICP Forests website.
Summary of the presented results from regular evaluations in ICP Forests (Part B) ▹
Monitoring the atmospheric deposition to forests is a prerequisite for understanding forest ecosystem processes and an important contribution for evaluating the spatio-temporal trends of air pollution. In this report the annual throughfall deposition of eutrophying, acidifying and buffering components on ICP Forests Level II plots in 2015 is presented. It must be noted, however, that the total deposition to forests is typically higher by a factor of 1 to 2 than the throughfall deposition measured under the forest canopy.
The nitrogen (N) compounds nitrate (NO3 -) and ammonium (NH4 +) are the main drivers of eutrophication and also contribute to acidification. High throughfall deposition rates to forests (throughfall deposition > 8 kg N ha-1 yr-1) were measured at several plots in central Europe (Belgium, Germany) but also in the Czech Republic, Denmark and southern Sweden. Low throughfall deposition rates were reported primarily for northern Europe.
Sulfate (SO4 2-) has been the most important driver of soil acidification. High throughfall deposition of SO4 2- (> 8 kg SO4 2--S ha-1 yr-1) was still found in central and southern Europe (Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, and Greece).
Calcium (Ca2+) throughfall deposition was high across southern Europe, likely related to contributions from Saharan Dust. The spatial pattern of magnesium (Mg2+) deposition is mainly dominated by marine sources. Both Ca2+and Mg2+ are macronutrients and act as buffers against acidification.
The overall spatial patterns of throughfall deposition in 2015 remained similar to results from the previous years.
Analyses of the chemical composition of leaves and needles over time and space allow the identification of trends and spatial patterns of the nutritional state of single trees and forest stands. Both, the levels and trends of foliar nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and the N:P ratio of the tree species European beech (Fagus sylvatica), Norway spruce (Picea abies), and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) were analysed. Average concentrations a decade ago (2000– 2005) were compared with recent values (2010 –2015) while trends were analysed for the overall period 1993 to 2015.
A declining trend in foliar P concentrations was found in European beech and Norway spruce, indicating an increasing P limitation of trees and forest stands. Foliar P concentrations were, however, relatively stable over the years in Scots pine. With regard to foliar N concentrations, the results suggest that the supply is at least adequate on the majority of the observed Level II plots for Fagus sylvatica and Pinus sylvestris, while a larger proportion of Picea abies plots remains in the deficiency range. The N:P ratio in all three species increased during 1993–2015.
The chapter on tree crown condition presents results from the assessments carried out on the largescale, representative, transnational monitoring network (Level I) of ICP Forests in 2016, as well as longterm trends for the main species and species groups.
In 2016, the average crown defoliation in the participating countries was 22.1% for broadleaved and 20.1% for conifer species. For most species, it remained largely in the range of observations from previous years. However, the defoliation of Scots pine, which generally does not deviate much from the trend, was higher in 2016 than the long-term mean, and the defoliation of Norway spruce remained on the level above the long-term trend for the third consecutive year. For Norway spruce especially, a large share of damage symptoms could not be assigned to specific damage agents, complicating the interpretation of defoliation assessments. After several years of improved crown condition, the defoliation of beech increased to the highest value ever recorded. The most common identified causes of damage on beech in 2016 were mining insects and defoliators. Mediterranean lowland pines showed the strongest trend in defoliation (around 3% every 10 years) while the highest mean defoliation in 2016 was observed in evergreen oaks (25.0%).
The average number of recorded damage symptoms per assessed tree was lower for the conifer species or species groups (on average 0.5 symptoms per tree in Norway spruce, Austrian pine, Mediterranean lowland pines and Scots pine) than for broadleaved species (on average 0.9 symptoms per tree in common beech, deciduous (sub-) Mediterranean and temperate oaks and evergreen oaks). Insects, abiotic causes and fungi were the most common damage agent groups, comprising altogether more than half (54.9%) of all damage records.
Climatic conditions significantly affect forest ecosystems and the inherent biogeochemical processes and relationships in the system of soil, plant and atmosphere. In a changing climate, the observation and analysis of long-term climatic conditions and solely weather events is crucial to evaluate and rank the processes and changes observed in the different surveys of the ICP Forests monitoring programme. This chapter reports on values of stress indicators related to specific weather conditions across Europe of the years 2013 to 2015 and identifies spatial patterns and relationships for such weather events. Despite the short study period of this evaluation, substantial differences in the meteorological stress indicators values were found between plots across Europe. Therefore, it is crucial that climatic conditions be considered when evaluating the results of other surveys since significant differences in meteorological variables may be responsible for significant changes in forest ecosystems.

Vol. 24/2017 (2017), 
Key: INRMM:14580369



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