Current issue: 53(4)
Natural forest tree populations are adapted to their natural environment. Forest tree species under northern conditions are at the edge of their range where the short growing season and the low winter temperatures are the two main factors limiting their ecological niche. Effects of air pollution on the ecological niche, designated as the environmental conditions that permit a population to survive permanently, are discussed according to G.E. Hutchinson’s concept of the ecological niche. Air pollution as an additional stress factor influences the ecological niche either by the direct influence as an additional dimension of the ecological niche or by interaction with the other dimensions. These interactions are especially important for low level long-term effects of air pollution which can result in reduced resistance to low winter temperature or, due to reduced net assimilation, reduced capability to survive the long period of winter dormancy. These effects influence the boundary of the ecological niche and reduce the area of the biotope of the respective species.
Within the remaining biotope genetic changes in forest tree species take place. Due to individual differences in exposure and susceptibility of trees to air pollution, higher and therefore more exposed trees as well as more susceptible trees will be reduced in reproduction or even be eliminated. This causes genetic changes in the tree population.