Citation Cavin L & Jump A (2017) Highest drought sensitivity and lowest resistance to growth suppression are found in the range core of the tree Fagus sylvatica L. not the equatorial range edge. Global Change Biology, 23 (1), pp. 362-379. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13366
Abstract Biogeographical and ecological theory suggests that species distributions should be driven to higher altitudes and latitudes as global temperatures rise. Such changes occur as growth improves at the poleward edge of a species distribution and declines at the range edge in the opposite or equatorial direction, mirrored by changes in the establishment of new individuals. A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that such processes are underway for a wide variety of species. Case studies from populations at the equatorial range edge of a variety of woody species have led us to understand that widespread growth decline and distributional shifts are underway. However, in apparent contrast, other studies report high productivity and reproduction in some range edge populations. We sought to assess temporal trends in the growth of the widespread European beech tree (Fagus sylvatica) across its latitudinal range. We explored the stability of populations to major drought events and the implications for predicted widespread growth decline at its equatorial range edge. In contrast to expectations, we found greatest sensitivity and low resistance to drought in the core of the species range, while dry range edge populations showed particularly high resistance to drought and little evidence of drought-linked growth decline. We hypothesise that this high range-edge resistance to drought is driven primarily by local environmental factors that allow relict populations to persist despite regionally unfavourable climate. The persistence of such populations demonstrates that range edge decline is not ubiquitous and is likely to be driven by declining population density at the landscape scale rather than sudden and widespread range retraction.