Dwarf pine (Pinus mugo) growing in our highest mountains is one of the world's unique. This is – on the Czech-Polish border – the northernmost distribution of this species in the world. The Krkonoše Mountains, as an island of the arcto-alpine tundra in Central Europe, are home to dwarf pine at least throughout the Holocene (last 11,700 years), during which the vegetation has repeatedly had to successfully face dramatic changes in climatic conditions. The team, led by Professor Vacek from the CULS Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, answered how they managed to deal with the equally dramatic concentrations of sulphur in the atmosphere.
Already in 1981, permanent research areas were established, on which since then the sulphur concentrations in the needles, growth characteristics, vitality and reproductive abilities have been monitored. These characteristics are then related to climate change, atmospheric SO2 concentrations and the number of insect defoliators. In addition, the observed period allows a qualitative comparison of three decades characterized by a gradual decrease in sulphur concentrations in the atmosphere.
One of the most interesting findings of the research is clearly the fact that the dwarf pine, unlike other Krkonoše woody plants (beech or Norway spruce), has proven to be very tolerant of sulphur deposition. Increased concentrations in the 1980s did not have a significant negative effect on its growth. With some caution, it can be stated that air pollution in synergism with the harsh climate during the air pollution disaster in the studied areas negatively affected the quantity and quality of fertility of dwarf pine.
Therefore, it would seem that this interesting tree does not have to worry about its future in the Sudetenland, especially since our industry is far from spewing as many poisons as in the pre-November past. However, a new threat has emerged in the form of rising temperatures. This allows for more frequent overgrowth of insect defoliators and at the same time a potential reduction of the area due to the expected shift of the upper forest boundary. Further study of our smallest and highest vegetation stage is therefore very much needed in the coming years, especially regarding the influence of dwarf pine on other components of biota, soil and non-productive functions in the arcto-alpine tundra. We can look forward to a story with an interesting plot.
Vacek, S., Hejcmanová, P., Hejcman, M., Vacek, Z. (2013): Growth, healthy status and seed production of differently aged allochtonous and autochtonous Pinus mugo stands in the Giant Mts. over 30 years. European Journal of Forest Research 132: 801–813.
prof. RNDr. Stanislav Vacek, DRSc.
Prof. RNDr. Stanislav Vacek, DrSc., (* 1954) studied geobotany at the Faculty of Science, Charles University. Subsequently, he was a researcher at the VÚLHM research station in Opočno for more than 25 years. He returned to the university grounds in 2005 and a year later was appointed professor of forestry at the CULS Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, where he still works today.
Prepared by: Jiří Lehejček