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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00382

The potential of liming to improve drought tolerance of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.)

 Martin Kohler1*,  Jörg Kunz1, Johannes Herrmann1, Peter Hartmann2, Lelde Jansone2, Heike Puhlmann2, Klaus von Wilpert2 and  Jürgen Bauhus1
  • 1Institute of Forest Sciences, Chair of Silviculture, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • 2Forstliche Versuchs- und Forschungsanstalt Baden-Württemberg (FVA), Germany

In response to a wide-spread decline in forest vitality associated with acid rain in the 1980s, liming of soils has been implemented in many federal states in Germany to buffer further acid deposition and improve availability of nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. As a consequence, it may also increase vitality and depth of fine-root systems and hence improve the drought tolerance of species such as Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), which occurs mostly on acidic forest soils. However, the influence of repeated liming on drought tolerance of trees has never been studied.
Here we compared the resistance, recovery and resilience of radial growth in P. abies in relation to drought in limed and control stands and assessed how the dosage and interval between lime applica-tion and drought year influences the radial growth response of P. abies.
We analyzed radial growth in 198 P. abies trees of six experimental sites in south-west Germany. An analysis of the radial increment over the last 30 years allowed the analysis of drought events shortly after the first liming (short-term effect) as well as posterior drought events (mid- to long-term effects). Generalized linear models were developed to assess the influence of drought intensity, site and period since first liming on the drought tolerance of Norway spruce.
Regardless of drought intensity, there was no general increase in drought resistance of Norway spruce in response to liming. However, drought resistance of radial growth improved on a loamy site that was additionally treated with wood ash 30 years after the first lime application. Furthermore, recovery and resilience of radial growth after severe drought events were generally better in spruce trees of limed treatments. This indicates a shorter stress period in spruce trees growing on limed soil, which may reduce their susceptibility to secondary, drought-related pests and pathogens.

Keywords: Norway spruce, Liming, drought tolerance, Resistance, resilience

Received: 30 Jun 2018; Accepted: 13 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Aikaterini Dounavi, Forstliche Versuchs- und Forschungsanstalt Baden-Württemberg (FVA), Germany

Reviewed by:

Bao Yang, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Mitsutoshi Kitao, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan  

Copyright: © 2019 Kohler, Kunz, Herrmann, Hartmann, Jansone, Puhlmann, von Wilpert and Bauhus. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Martin Kohler, University of Freiburg, Institute of Forest Sciences, Chair of Silviculture, Freiburg, Germany,