Climate change particularly threatens the xeric limits of temperate-continental forests. In Hungary, annual temperatures have increased by 1.2 °C-1.8 °C in the last 30 years and the frequency of extreme droughts has grown. With the aim to gain stand-level prospects of sustainability, we have used local forest site variables to identify and project effects of recent and expected changes of climate. We have used a climatic descriptor (FAI index) to compare trends estimated from forest datasets with climatological projections; this is likely for the first time such a comparison has been made. Four independent approaches confirmed the near-linear decline of growth and vitality with increasing hot droughts in summer, using sessile oak as model species. The correlation between droughts and the expansion of pest and disease damages was also found to be significant. Projections of expected changes of main site factors predict a dramatic rise of future drought frequency and, consequently, a substantial shift of forest climate classes, especially at low elevation. Excess waterdependent lowland forests may lose supply from groundwater, which may change vegetation cover and soil development processes. The overall change of site conditions not only causes economic losses, but also challenges long-term sustainability of forest cover at the xeric limits.
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