Spatio-temporal effects of forest canopy on understory microclimate in a long-term experiment in Switzerland

Georg Von Arx, Matthias Dobbertin & Martine Rebetez

Résumé Forest canopy generally moderates below-canopy air temperature and relative humidity and thus creates a specific microclimate for tree seedling growth. Climate change will alter the moderating capacity, which may render the below-canopy conditions unsuitable for recruitment of the hitherto dominant tree species. We assigned long-term meteorological data (1997-2010) recorded inside and outside of 14 different forest ecosystems in Switzerland to three forest types (broadleaved, non-pine conifer, pine), two altitudinal levels (low, high), the four seasons and general weather situations (normal, hot/dry, cold/wet) to compare moderating capacity of each of these classifiers. Our results confirmed a general moderating effect of canopy on below-canopy microclimate with a decrease of daily maximum air temperature of up to 5.1 degrees C (overall average: 1.8 degrees C) and an increase of daily minimum relative humidity of up to 12.4% (overall average: 5.1%) in the long-term average, respectively. Broadleaved and non-pine conifer forests moderated daytime microclimate about twice as much as pine forests, while at nighttime considerably less cooling down and even negative effects on levels of relative humidity compared to the open area were recorded at the pine forest sites. Moderating capacity was stronger at low altitude than at high altitude. It was strongest during the growing season, particularly in summer, and depended in a complex way on the general weather situation. Deviations from the general seasonal and weather condition patterns most likely occurred when soil moisture pools were depleted. Despite the moderating capacity, below-canopy microclimate did not lag behind open area microclimate. Based on our results we conclude that natural recruitment in pine forests and high-altitude forests may respond most sensitively to climate change. (c) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Citation von Arx, G., Dobbertin, M., & Rebetez, M. (2012). Spatio-temporal effects of forest canopy on understory microclimate in a long-term experiment in Switzerland. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 166, 144-155.
Type Article de périodique (Anglais)
Date de publication 2012
Nom du périodique Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
Volume 166
Pages 144-155