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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Longer Growing Seasons Cause Hydrological Regime Shifts in Central European Forests

Kupec, Petr; Deutscher, Jan; Futter, Martyn


In this study, we present evidence for a hydrological regime shift in upland central European forests. Using a combination of long-term data, detailed field measurements and modelling, we show that there is a prolonged and persistent decline in annual runoff:precipitation ratios that is most likely linked to longer growing seasons. We performed a long term (1950-2018) water balance simulation for a Czech upland forest headwater catchment calibrated against measured streamflow and transpiration from deciduous and coniferous stands. Simulations were corroborated by long-term (1965-2018) borehole measurements and historical drought reports. A regime shift from positive to negative catchment water balances likely occurred in the early part of this century. Since 2007, annual runoff:precipitation ratios have been below the long-term average. Annual average temperatures have increased, but there have been no notable long term trends in precipitation. Since 1980, there has been a pronounced April warming, likely leading to earlier leaf out and higher annual transpiration, making water unavailable for runoff generation and/or soil moisture recharge. Our results suggest a regime shift due to second order effects of climate change where increased transpiration associated with a longer growing season leads to a shift from light to water limitation in central European forests. This will require new approaches to managing forests where water limitation has previously not been a problem.


forest hydrology; tipping point; water balance modelling

Published in

2021, volume: 12, number: 12, article number: 1656
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Kupec, Petr
Mendel University in Brno
Deutscher, Jan
Mendel University in Brno
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
Climate Research
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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