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Estimating late spring frost-induced growth anomalies in European beech forests in Italy

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Weather extremes and extreme climate events, like late spring frosts, are expected to increase in frequency and duration during the next decades. Although spring phenology of European beech is well adapted to escape freeze damages on longer time scales, the effects of occasional late spring frosts (LSF) are among the main climatic damages to these forests to such an extent that they limit beech distribution and elevation range, especially at its southern margin. The aim of this work was to evaluate the short-term effects of two consecutive LSF events occurred in 2016 and 2017 in Italy on the beech forest vegetation activity. Remotely sensed land surface temperature (LST) data were used to detect the pixels where LSF occurred, while enhanced vegetation index (EVI) data were used to quantify LSF effects by computing a spring vegetation activity anomaly index (sAI). In 2016 and 2017, the LSF covered, respectively, about 29% and 32% of the total Italian beech-dominated area. The two LSF widely differed in their spatial patterns and their effects. In 2016, the pixels belonging to the sAI classes with the highest spring anomalies were also those where prolonged LSF occur, while, in 2017, the pixels belonging to the highest sAI classes were those that underwent the shorter (but probably more intense) LSF events. Under scenarios of increased frequency risk of repeated LSF, the proposed methodology may represent an automatic and low-cost tool both for monitoring and predicting European beech growth patterns.

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Correspondence to S. Bajocco.

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Bascietto, M., Bajocco, S., Ferrara, C. et al. Estimating late spring frost-induced growth anomalies in European beech forests in Italy. Int J Biometeorol 63, 1039–1049 (2019).

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