Background and aims
A changing climate in the future with more severe drought events will affect the conditions for forest growth and vitality. Most knowledge on tree species response to drought is based on monocultures, even though many of the forests in the world consist of mixed stands. We aimed to investigate how trees respond to summer drought when grown in a three species mixture.
For two subsequent summers canopy throughfall, and subsequently soil water potential, was reduced using sub-canopy roofs in monocultures and mixtures of Betula pendula, Alnus glutinosa and Fagus sylvatica.
The overyielding of the mixed stand was not affected by the drought using either above or below ground production, standing fine root biomass or soil respiration as parameters. However, Alnus glutinosa was the most negatively affected when growing in monoculture, whereas this species was less affected when growing in mixture. In contrast, Betula pendula was most negatively affected when growing in mixture. Fagus sylvatica was least affected by the drought and maintained growth over the two years.
A water demanding species as Alnus glutinosa can perform well in a mixture during drought and not be outcompeted. This is opposite to what is assumed in most models of forest responses to climate change.