Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Initial oak regeneration responses to experimental warming along microclimatic and macroclimatic gradients

Meeussen, C.; De Pauw, K.; Sanczuk, P.; Brunet, J.; Cousins, S. A. O.; Gasperini, C.; Hedwall, P-O; Iacopetti, G.; Lenoir, J.; Plue, J.; Selvi, F.; Spicher, F.; Diez, J. Uria; Verheyen, K.; Vangansbeke, P.; De Frenne, P.


Quercus spp. are one of the most important tree genera in temperate deciduous forests in terms of biodiversity, economic and cultural perspectives. However, natural regeneration of oaks, depending on specific environmental conditions, is still not sufficiently understood. Oak regeneration dynamics are impacted by climate change, but these climate impacts will depend on local forest management and light and temperature conditions. Here, we studied germination, survival and seedling performance (i.e. aboveground biomass, height, root collar diameter and specific leaf area) of four oak species (Q. cerris, Q. ilex, Q. robur and Q. petraea). Acorns were sown across a wide latitudinal gradient, from Italy to Sweden, and across several microclimatic gradients located within and beyond the species' natural ranges. Microclimatic gradients were applied in terms of forest structure, distance to the forest edge and experimental warming. We found strong interactions between species and latitude, as well as between microclimate and latitude or species. The species thus reacted differently to local and regional changes in light and temperature ; in southern regions the temperate Q. robur and Q. petraea performed best in plots with a complex structure, whereas the Mediterranean Q. ilex and Q. cerris performed better in simply structured forests with a reduced microclimatic buffering capacity. The experimental warming treatment only enhanced height and aboveground biomass of Mediterranean species. Our results show that local microclimatic gradients play a key role in the initial stages of oak regeneration; however, one needs to consider the species-specific responses to forest structure and the macroclimatic context.


climate change; edge influence; forest structure; temperate deciduous forests; transplant experiment; Quercus

Published in

Plant Biology
2022, Volume: 24, number: 5, pages: 745-757
Publisher: WILEY