Global warming likely to enhance black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) growth in a Mediterranean riparian forest.
Mediterranean riparian forests are comparably humid environments that provide shelter for several broadleaved deciduous tree species at their southernmost distribution margin. The stability of these communities, however, is threatened by climate change as well as invasive tree species, such as black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.). So far, black locust's European distribution appears to be mostly limited by low temperatures, but global warming might enhance its growth in colder areas. Moreover, R. pseudoacacia can better access water from the phreatic level than some native non-phreatophytic tree species such as European ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.). In this study, we compare the performance of European ash, a native deciduous tree species at its southernmost distribution border, with the invasive black locust, under a range of climate change projections, in a stand located at N.E. Spain. We first use Bayesian inference to calibrate the GOTILWA + vegetation model against sap flow data for both tree species. We then project each tree species' performance under several climate change scenarios. Our results indicate that increasing temperatures will enlarge black locust's vegetative period, leading to substantially increased annual productivity if the phreatic water table keeps reachable. For European ash, we project a slight increase in productivity, but with higher uncertainty. Our findings suggest that black locust will profit more from global warming than the native European ash, which is concerning because of the already detrimental impact of black locust for the local ecosystems. We conclude that climate change has the potential to stimulate black locust growth on Mediterranean riparian forests. Forest management should therefore include mechanisms to avoid black locust establishment, such as avoid clear-cutting and maintaining closed riparian forest canopies.