Latte N., Tavernier P., de Jaegere T., Claessens H. [2020] Dendroecological assessment of climate resilience of the rare and scattered forest tree species Tilia cordata Mill. in northwestern Europe. Forestry 2020, 1-10. doi:10.1093/forestry/cpaa011

To increase forest resilience to global change, forest managers are often directing forest stands towards a broader diversity of tree species. The small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata Mill.), a rare and scattered species in northwestern Europe, is a promising candidate for this purpose. Its life traits suggest a high resilience to climate change and a favourable impact on forest ecosystem services. This study used a dendroecological approach to assess how lime tree radial growth had responded to the past climatic change. First, 120 lime trees from nine sites were selected in southern Belgium based on criteria adapted to the rareness of the species. Chronology quality was assessed and resulting tree-ring series were validated at site and region levels. Second, a range of dendrochronological methodswas used to analyze the changes over time in the variability and long-term trends of lime tree growth and their relation to climate during the period 1955–2016. Last, behaviour of lime trees was compared with that of beech from the same region and time period. For this purpose, the same methodology was applied to an additional beech tree -ring dataset (149 trees from 13 sites). Beech is the climax tree species of the region, but is known to be drought-sensitive and has shown weaknesses in the current climate. The quality of our tree-ring series attests that dendroecological investigation using rare and scattered species is possible, opening theway to further analysis on other such lesser-known forest tree species. The analysis showed that the small-leaved lime had been resilient to the past climatic change in multiple ways. Lime growth increased during the preceding decades despite an increased frequency and intensity of stressful climatic events. Lime growth quickly recovered in the years following the stresses. The growth–climate relationships were either stable over time or had a positive evolution. The behaviour of lime contrasted strongly with that of beech. Lime performed better than beech in every analysis. Small-leaved lime is thus a serious candidate for addressing climate change challenges in the region. It should be considered by forest managers planning to improve the sustainability and resilience of their forests, in particular in vulnerable beech stands.

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