Tree-ring analysis was applied to assess the impacts of the fungal disease Swiss needle cast on the radial growth of mature Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests in the western Oregon Coast Range. Although considered endemic to the Pacific Northwest, Swiss needle cast has significantly lowered productivity in Douglas-fir forests only in the past 20-30 years. To date, studies on Swiss needle cast impacts have almost exclusively involved young (<30 years) plantation trees. To better describe the history of Swiss needle cast and its impacts on older (>80 years) trees, we extracted tree cores from dominant and codominant Douglas-fir and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) in three even-aged stands in western Oregon. In the least affected stand growth rates of both species did not significantly differ, while at the most severely diseased site Douglas-fir radial growth was reduced by as much as 85%. Growth reductions likely associated with Swiss needle cast were dated to as early as 1950, though the most severe impacts occurred after 1984. An index of Swiss needle cast severity significantly (p < 0.01) related to instrumental records of air temperatures such that warm conditions from March through August were associated with reduced radial growth at the most severely affected site. Overall, this study demonstrates that even mature forests of natural origin are susceptible to severe growth reductions by Swiss needle cast, that warmer spring and summer temperatures are associated with Swiss needle cast impacts, and that the disease appears to be increasing in severity.
- Climate change
- Pacific Northwest
- Swiss needle cast
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law