Temperature is suggested to determine the upper limit of tree life. Therefore, future climate warming may be of importance for tree distribution within the European Alps, where low temperatures limit carbon metabolism.
We focused on the effects of air and soil temperature on net photosynthesis (Pn) of Pinus cembra an evergreen climax species of the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps. Light response and temperature response curves were estimated along an altitudinal gradient ranging from the forest limit up to the krummholz limit in both summer and fall.
In general, Pn was significantly lower in fall as compared to summer. Nevertheless, independent from season mean Pn values tended to increase with elevation and were positively correlated with root zone temperatures. The specific leaf area by contrast declined with increasing elevation. Furthermore, the temperature optimum of net photosynthesis declined with increasing elevation and was positively correlated with the mean maximum air temperature of the 10 days prior the date of measurement.
Thus, our findings appear to reflect a long-term adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus of Pinus cembra to the general temperature conditions with respect to elevation combined with a short term acclimation to the prevailing temperature regime.
net photosynthesis; temperature; cembran pine; timberline ecotone; global warming
Background and Aims
Altitudinal timberlines are thought to move upward by global warming, a crucial topic in ecology. Tall tree species (the conifer Abies mariesii and the deciduous broad-leaved Betula ermanii) dominate the sub-alpine zone between 1600 and 2500 m a.s.l., the timberline, on Mount Norikura in central Japan. Dwarf pine Pinus pumila dominates above the timberline to near the summit (3026 m a.s.l.). This study evaluated how the timberline formed on Mount Norikura by examining altitudinal changes in stand structure and dynamics around the timberline.
One hundred and twenty-five plots of 10 m × 10 m were established around the timberline (2350–2600 m a.s.l.). Trunk diameter growth rate during 6 years was examined for A. mariesii, B. ermanii and P. pumila. Mortality during this period and mechanical damage scars on the trunks and branches due to strong wind and snow were examined for A. mariesii only.
The density, maximum trunk height and diameter of A. mariesii in plots decreased with altitude. The maximum trunk height of B. ermanii decreased with altitude, but density and maximum trunk diameter did not decrease. In contrast, the density of P. pumila abruptly increased from around the timberline. A strong negative correlation was found between the densities of P. pumila and tall tree species, indicating their interspecific competition. Trunk diameter growth rates of A. mariesii and B. ermanii did not decrease with altitude, suggesting that these two tall tree species can grow at the timberline. The ratio of trees with mechanical damage scars increased with altitude for A. mariesii, a tendency more conspicuous for larger trees. The mortality of larger A. mariesii was also greater at higher altitude. Tall tree species may not increase their trunk height and survive around the timberline because of mechanical damage.
This study suggests that the altitudinal location of the timberline is mainly affected by mechanical damage due to strong wind and snow rather than by growth limitation due to low temperature. Therefore, the timberline would not move upward even under global warming if these growth and mortality characteristics do not change for a long time.
Abies mariesii; Betula ermanii; climate change; disturbance; global warming; Pinus pumila; timberline
Within the alpine treeline ecotone tree growth is increasingly restricted by extreme climate conditions. Although intra-annual stem growth recorded by dendrometers can be linked to climate, stem diameter increments in slow-growing subalpine trees are masked by changes in tree water status.We tested the hypothesis that intra-annual radial stem growth in Pinus cembra is influenced by different climate variables along the treeline ecotone in the Austrian Alps. Dendrometer traces were compared with dynamics of xylem cell development to date onset of cambial activity and radial stem growth in spring.Daily fluctuations in stem radius reflected changes in tree water status throughout the treeline ecotone. Extracted daily radial increments were significantly correlated with air temperature at the timberline and treeline only, where budburst, cambial activity and enlargement of first tracheids also occurred quite similarly. A close relationship was detected between radial increment and number of enlarging tracheids throughout the treeline ecotone.We conclude that (i) the relationship between climate and radial stem growth within the treeline ecotone is dependent on a close coupling to atmospheric climate conditions and (ii) initiation of cambial activity and radial growth in spring can be distinguished from stem re-hydration by histological analysis.
dendrometer; Pinus cembra; radial increment; treeline ecotone; xylem formation
To test whether the altitudinal limit of tree growth is determined by carbons shortage or by a limitation in growth we investigated non structural carbohydrates and their components starch and total soluble sugars in Pinus cembra trees along an elevational gradient in the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps. NSC contents in needles, branches, stems, and coarse roots were measured throughout an entire growing season. At the tissue level NSC contents were not significantly more abundant in treeline trees as compared to trees at lower elevations. Along our 425 m elevational transect from the closed forest to the treeline we failed to find a stable elevational trend in the total NSC pool of entire trees and observed within season increases in the tree’s NSC pool that can be attributed to an altitudinal increase in leaf mass as needles contained the largest NSC fraction of the whole tree NSC pool. Furthermore, whole tree NSC contents were positively correlated with net photosynthetic capacity. Although our observed NSC characteristics do not support the hypothesis that tree life at their upper elevational limit is determined by an insufficient carbon balance we found no consistent confirmation for the sink limitation hypothesis.
Non structural carbohydrates; seasonal variation; elevational gradient; timberline ecotone; treeline formation; treelife limitation
Although growth limitation of trees at Alpine and high-latitude timberlines by prevailing summer temperature is well established, loss of thermal response of radial tree growth during last decades has repeatedly been addressed. We examined long-term variability of climate-growth relationships in ring width chronologies of Stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) by means of moving response functions (MRF). The study area is situated in the timberline ecotone (c. 2000 – 2200 m a.s.l.) on Mt. Patscherkofel (Tyrol, Austria). Five site chronologies were developed within the ecotone with constant sample depth (≥ 19 trees) throughout most of the time period analysed. MRF calculated for the period 1866-1999 and 1901-1999 for c. 200 and c. 100 yr old stands, respectively, revealed that mean July temperature is the major and long-term stable driving force of Pinus cembra radial growth within the timberline ecotone. However, since the mid 1980s, radial growth in timberline and tree line chronologies strikingly diverges from the July temperature trend. This is probably a result of extreme climate events (e.g. low winter precipitation, late frost) and/or increasing drought stress on cambial activity. The latter assumption is supported by a < 10 % increase in annual increments of c. 50 yr old trees at the timberline and at the tree line in 2003 compared to 2002, when extraordinary hot and dry conditions prevailed during summer. Furthermore, especially during the second half of the 20th century, influence of climate variables on radial growth show abrupt fluctuations, which might also be a consequence of climate warming on tree physiology.
Climate warming; moving response function; Pinus cembra; temperature sensitivity; tree ring
We determined the temporal dynamic of cambial activity and xylem development of stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) throughout the treeline ecotone. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring was carried out during the growing seasons 2006 and 2007 at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.), treeline (2110 m a.s.l.) and within the krummholz belt (2180 m a.s.l.) and the influence of climate variables on intra-annual wood formation was determined.
At the beginning of both growing seasons, highest numbers of cambial and enlarging cells were observed at the treeline. Soil temperatures at time of initiation of cambial activity were c. 1.5 °C higher at treeline (open canopy) compared to timberline (closed canopy), suggesting that a threshold root-zone temperature is involved in triggering onset of above ground stem growth.
The rate of xylem cell production determined in two weekly intervals during June through August 2006-2007 was significantly correlated with air temperature (temperature sums expressed as degree-days and mean daily maximum temperature) at the timberline only. Lack of significant relationships between tracheid production and temperature variables at the treeline and within the krummholz belt support past dendroclimatological studies that more extreme environmental conditions (e.g., wind exposure, frost desiccation, late frost) increasingly control tree growth above timberline.
Results of this study revealed that spatial and temporal (i.e. year-to-year) variability in timing and dynamic of wood formation of Pinus cembra is strongly influenced by local site factors within the treeline ecotone and the dynamics of seasonal temperature variation, respectively.
Cambium; intra-annual growth; Pinus cembra; temperature; tracheid production
It has been frequently stressed that at distributional boundaries, like at the Alpine timberline and within dry inner Alpine environments, tree growth will be affected first by changing climate conditions. Climate in 2007 was characterized by the occurrence of exceptionally mild temperatures in spring (3.4 and 2.7 °C above long-term mean (LTM) at timberline and the valley sites, respectively) with an almost continuous drought period recorded in April and slightly warmer than average temperatures throughout summer (1.3 °C above LTM at both sites).
We compared temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra at the Alpine timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) and Pinus sylvestris at a xeric inner Alpine site (750 m a.s.l.) by repeated cellular analyses of micro-cores (n = 5 trees/site). While onset of wood formation in P. sylvestris and P. cembra differed by about two weeks (12 and 27 April, respectively), maximum daily growth rates peaked on 6 May at the valley site and on 23 June at timberline. At both sites maximum tracheid production was reached prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions during summer, i.e. an increase in precipitation and temperature. Xylem formation ended on 31 August and 28 October at the xeric site and at timberline, respectively.
This study demonstrates the plasticity of tree-ring formation along an altitudinal transect in response to water availability and temperature. Whether early achievement of maximum growth rates is an adaptation to cope with extreme environmental conditions prevailing at limits of tree growth needs to be analysed more closely by taking belowground carbon allocation into account.
Alpine timberline; cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; Stone pine; wood anatomy; xylogenesis
Rapid 21st-century climate change may lead to large population decreases and extinction in tropical montane cloud forest species in the Andes. While prior research has focused on species migrations per se, ecotones may respond to different environmental factors than species. Even if species can migrate in response to climate change, if ecotones do not they can function as hard barriers to species migrations, making ecotone migrations central to understanding species persistence under scenarios of climate change. We examined a 42-year span of aerial photographs and high resolution satellite imagery to calculate migration rates of timberline–the grassland-forest ecotone–inside and outside of protected areas in the high Peruvian Andes. We found that timberline in protected areas was more likely to migrate upward in elevation than in areas with frequent cattle grazing and fire. However, rates in both protected (0.24 m yr−1) and unprotected (0.05 m yr−1) areas are only 0.5–2.3% of the rates needed to stay in equilibrium with projected climate by 2100. These ecotone migration rates are 12.5 to 110 times slower than the observed species migration rates within the same forest, suggesting a barrier to migration for mid- and high-elevation species. We anticipate that the ecotone will be a hard barrier to migration under future climate change, leading to drastic population and biodiversity losses in the region unless intensive management steps are taken.
We applied dendroclimatological techniques to determine long-term stationarity of climate-growth relationships and recent growth trends of three widespread coniferous tree species of the central Austrian Alps, which grow intermixed at dry-mesic sites within a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m asl). Time series of annual increments were developed from > 120 mature trees of Picea abies, Larix decidua and Pinus sylvestris. Calculation of response functions for the period 1911 – 2009 revealed significant differences among species in response to climate variables. While precipitation in May – June favoured radial growth of Picea abies and Larix decidua, Pinus sylvestris growth mainly depended on April – May precipitation. P. abies growth was most sensitive to May – June temperature (inverse relationship). Moving response function coefficients indicated increasing drought sensitivity of all species in recent decades, which is related to a decline in soil moisture availability due to increasing stand density and tree size and higher evapotranspiration rates in a warmer climate. While recent trend in basal area increment (BAI) of L. decidua distinctly declined implying high vulnerability to drought stress, moderately shade-tolerant P. abies showed steadily increasing BAI and quite constant BAI was maintained in drought adapted P. sylvestris, although at lowest level of all species. We conclude that synergistic effects of stand dynamics and climate warming increased drought sensitivity, which changed competitive strength of co-occurring conifers due to differences in inherent adaptive capacity.
Basal area increment; Dendroclimatology; Inner Alpine valley; Radial growth; Moving response function; Tree-ring analysis
The relationship between stem CO2 efflux (ES), cambial activity and xylem production in Pinus cembra was determined at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) of the Central Austrian Alps, throughout one year. ES was measured continuously from June 2006 to August 2007 using an infrared gas-analysis system. Cambial activity and xylem production was determined by repeated microcore sampling of the developing tree ring and radial increment was monitored using automated point dendrometers. Aside of temperature, the number of living tracheids and cambial cells was predominantly responsible for ES: ES normalized to 10°C (ES10) was significantly correlated to number of living cells throughout the year (r2 = 0,574; p < 0,001). However, elevated ES and missing correlation between ES10 and xylem production was detected during cambial reactivation in April and during transition from active phase to rest, which occurred in August and lasted until early September. Results of this study indicate that (i) during seasonal variations in cambial activity non-linearity between ES and xylem production occurs and (ii) elevated metabolic activity during transition stages in the cambial activity-dormancy cycle influence the carbon budget of Pinus cembra. Daily radial stem increment was primarily influenced by the number of enlarging cells and was not correlated to ES.
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
Researchers agree that climate change factors such as rising atmospheric [CO2] and warming will likely interact to modify ecosystem properties and processes. However, the response of the microbial communities that regulate ecosystem processes is less predictable. We measured the direct and interactive effects of climatic change on soil fungal and bacterial communities (abundance and composition) in a multifactor climate change experiment that exposed a constructed old-field ecosystem to different atmospheric CO2 concentration (ambient, +300 ppm), temperature (ambient, +3°C), and precipitation (wet and dry) might interact to alter soil bacterial and fungal abundance and community structure in an old-field ecosystem. We found that (i) fungal abundance increased in warmed treatments; (ii) bacterial abundance increased in warmed plots with elevated atmospheric [CO2] but decreased in warmed plots under ambient atmospheric [CO2]; (iii) the phylogenetic distribution of bacterial and fungal clones and their relative abundance varied among treatments, as indicated by changes in 16S rRNA and 28S rRNA genes; (iv) changes in precipitation altered the relative abundance of Proteobacteria and Acidobacteria, where Acidobacteria decreased with a concomitant increase in the Proteobacteria in wet relative to dry treatments; and (v) changes in precipitation altered fungal community composition, primarily through lineage specific changes within a recently discovered group known as soil clone group I. Taken together, our results indicate that climate change drivers and their interactions may cause changes in bacterial and fungal overall abundance; however, changes in precipitation tended to have a much greater effect on the community composition. These results illustrate the potential for complex community changes in terrestrial ecosystems under climate change scenarios that alter multiple factors simultaneously.
Global warming and the stronger regional temperature trends recently recorded over the European Alps have triggered several biological and physical dynamics in high-altitude environments. We defined the present treeline altitude in three valleys of a region in the western Italian Alps and reconstructed the past treeline position for the last three centuries in a nearly undisturbed site by means of a dendrochronological approach. We found that the treeline altitude in this region is mainly controlled by human impacts and geomorphological factors. The reconstruction of the altitudinal dynamics at the study site reveals that the treeline shifted upwards of 115 m over the period 1901–2000, reaching the altitude of 2505 m in 2000 and 2515 m in 2008. The recent treeline shift and the acceleration of tree colonization rates in the alpine belt can be mainly ascribed to the climatic input. However, we point out the increasing role of geomorphological factors in controlling the future treeline position and colonization patterns in high mountains.
Climate change; Treeline; Geomorphology; Tree rings; Larix decidua; European Alps
Central and semiarid north-eastern Asia was subject to twentieth century warming far above the global average. Since forests of this region occur at their drought limit, they are particularly vulnerable to climate change. We studied the regional variations of temperature and precipitation trends and their effects on tree growth and forest regeneration in Mongolia. Tree-ring series from more than 2,300 trees of Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) collected in four regions of Mongolia’s forest zone were analyzed and related to available weather data. Climate trends underlie a remarkable regional variation leading to contrasting responses of tree growth in taiga forests even within the same mountain system. Within a distance of a few hundred kilometers (140–490 km), areas with recently reduced growth and regeneration of larch alternated with regions where these parameters remained constant or even increased. Reduced productivity could be correlated with increasing summer temperatures and decreasing precipitation; improved growth conditions were found at increasing precipitation, but constant summer temperatures. An effect of increasing winter temperatures on tree-ring width or forest regeneration was not detectable. Since declines of productivity and regeneration are more widespread in the Mongolian taiga than the opposite trend, a net loss of forests is likely to occur in the future, as strong increases in temperature and regionally differing changes in precipitation are predicted for the twenty-first century.
Climate variability; Drought; Forest-steppe ecotones; Global warming; Tree-ring width
The Andes provide an extensive latitudinal and topographical framework for studying the factors that control the spatial patterns of forests (timberlines) and their species components expressed through the presence of tree growth forms (tree lines). Despite consistent overall similarities in landscape patterns, many processes must be unique, given the dramatic differences in species richness and biophysical constraints along the Andes. In all cases evaluated to date, morphological plasticity is a common trait of plant species that dominate at tree lines. In fact, many changes observed can be related to species-specific traits. Physiological limitations on tree growth form only explain species limits, while disturbances and cyclical climate fluctuations interact to affect many landscape patterns. Over long periods of time, tree lines provide unique habitats and perhaps opportunities for speciation. Understanding the spatial organization of tree-line dynamics is one viable research approach for evaluating the likely past fluxes and possible future changes.
Andes Mountains; biodiversity; timberline; tree line
The Russian treeline is a dynamic ecotone typified by steep gradients in summer temperature and regionally variable gradients in albedo and heat flux. The location of the treeline is largely controlled by summer temperatures and growing season length. Temperatures have responded strongly to twentieth-century global warming and will display a magnified response to future warming. Dendroecological studies indicate enhanced conifer recruitment during the twentieth century. However, conifers have not yet recolonized many areas where trees were present during the Medieval Warm period (ca AD 800–1300) or the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM; ca 10 000–3000 years ago). Reconstruction of tree distributions during the HTM suggests that the future position of the treeline due to global warming may approximate its former Holocene maximum position. An increased dominance of evergreen tree species in the northern Siberian forests may be an important difference between past and future conditions. Based on the slow rates of treeline expansion observed during the twentieth century, the presence of steep climatic gradients associated with the current Arctic coastline and the prevalence of organic soils, it is possible that rates of treeline expansion will be regionally variable and transient forest communities with species abundances different from today's may develop.
Arctic; Eurasia; Holocene; boreal forest; treeline; climate change
Warming-induced expansion of trees and shrubs into tundra vegetation will strongly impact Arctic ecosystems. Today, a small subset of the boreal woody flora found during certain Plio-Pleistocene warm periods inhabits Greenland. Whether the twenty-first century warming will induce a re-colonization of a rich woody flora depends on the roles of climate and migration limitations in shaping species ranges. Using potential treeline and climatic niche modelling, we project shifts in areas climatically suitable for tree growth and 56 Greenlandic, North American and European tree and shrub species from the Last Glacial Maximum through the present and into the future. In combination with observed tree plantings, our modelling highlights that a majority of the non-native species find climatically suitable conditions in certain parts of Greenland today, even in areas harbouring no native trees. Analyses of analogous climates indicate that these conditions are widespread outside Greenland, thus increasing the likelihood of woody invasions. Nonetheless, we find a substantial migration lag for Greenland's current and future woody flora. In conclusion, the projected climatic scope for future expansions is strongly limited by dispersal, soil development and other disequilibrium dynamics, with plantings and unintentional seed dispersal by humans having potentially large impacts on spread rates.
Arctic; climatic niche modelling; climate change impact; disequilibrium; postglacial re-colonization; shrub expansion
Immediate phenotypic variation and the lagged effect of evolutionary adaptation to climate change appear to be two key processes in tree responses to climate warming. This study examines these components in two types of growth models for predicting the 2010–2099 diameter growth change of four major boreal species Betula papyrifera, Pinus banksiana, Picea mariana, and Populus tremuloides along a broad latitudinal gradient in eastern Canada under future climate projections. Climate-growth response models for 34 stands over nine latitudes were calibrated and cross-validated. An adaptive response model (A-model), in which the climate-growth relationship varies over time, and a fixed response model (F-model), in which the relationship is constant over time, were constructed to predict future growth. For the former, we examined how future growth of stands in northern latitudes could be forecasted using growth-climate equations derived from stands currently growing in southern latitudes assuming that current climate in southern locations provide an analogue for future conditions in the north. For the latter, we tested if future growth of stands would be maximally predicted using the growth-climate equation obtained from the given local stand assuming a lagged response to climate due to genetic constraints. Both models predicted a large growth increase in northern stands due to more benign temperatures, whereas there was a minimal growth change in southern stands due to potentially warm-temperature induced drought-stress. The A-model demonstrates a changing environment whereas the F-model highlights a constant growth response to future warming. As time elapses we can predict a gradual transition between a response to climate associated with the current conditions (F-model) to a more adapted response to future climate (A-model). Our modeling approach provides a template to predict tree growth response to climate warming at mid-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
Hemi-boreal forests, which make up the transition from temperate deciduous forests to boreal forests in southern Siberia, have experienced significant warming without any accompanying increase in precipitation during the last 80 years. This climatic change could have a profound impact on tree growth and on the stability of forest ecosystems in this region, but at present evidence for these impacts is lacking. In this study, we report a recent dramatic decline in the growth of hemi-boreal forests, based on ring width measurements from three dominant tree-species (Pinus sylvestris, Larix sibirica and Larix gmelinii), sampled from eight sites in the region. We found that regional tree growth has become increasingly limited by low soil water content in the pre- and early-growing season (from October of the previous year to July of the current year) over the past 80 years. A warming-induced reduction in soil water content has also increased the climate sensitivity of these three tree species. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a clear decline in growth is evident for both the pine forests and the larch forests, although there are increasing trends in the proxy of soil water use efficiencies. Our findings are consistent with those from other parts of the world and provide valuable insights into the regional carbon cycle and vegetation dynamics, and should be useful for devising adaptive forest management strategies.
Human activities are placing enormous pressures on the biosphere. The introduction of new chemicals and the increasing ambient levels of existing chemicals have resulted in atmospheric degradation. This paper reviews some of the adverse effects of stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming. Because the atmospheric effects of ozone depletion are fairly well characterized, quantitative risk estimates have been developed. However, because the atmospheric effects of global warming are less understood, public health problems that could be intensified by climate change are assessed qualitatively. The interactive effects of these two phenomena are also discussed.
Global climate change is expected to affect terrestrial ecosystems in a variety of ways. Some of the more well-studied effects include the biogeochemical feedbacks to the climate system that can either increase or decrease the atmospheric load of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Less well-studied are the effects of climate change on the linkages between soil and plant processes. Here, we report the effects of soil warming on these linkages observed in a large field manipulation of a deciduous forest in southern New England, USA, where soil was continuously warmed 5°C above ambient for 7 years. Over this period, we have observed significant changes to the nitrogen cycle that have the potential to affect tree species composition in the long term. Since the start of the experiment, we have documented a 45% average annual increase in net nitrogen mineralization and a three-fold increase in nitrification such that in years 5 through 7, 25% of the nitrogen mineralized is then nitrified. The warming-induced increase of available nitrogen resulted in increases in the foliar nitrogen content and the relative growth rate of trees in the warmed area. Acer rubrum (red maple) trees have responded the most after 7 years of warming, with the greatest increases in both foliar nitrogen content and relative growth rates. Our study suggests that considering species-specific responses to increases in nitrogen availability and changes in nitrogen form is important in predicting future forest composition and feedbacks to the climate system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2133-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Soil warming; Net nitrogen mineralization; Nitrification; Species-specific nutrient acquisition strategies
Ecological succession drives large-scale changes in ecosystem composition over time, but the mechanisms whereby climatic change might alter succession remain unresolved. Here, we asked if the effects of atmospheric and climatic change would alter tree seedling emergence and establishment in an old-field ecosystem, recognizing that small shifts in rates of seedling emergence and establishment of different species may have long-term repercussions on the transition of fields to forests in the future.
We introduced seeds from three early successional tree species into constructed old-field plant communities that had been subjected for 4 years to altered temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric CO2 regimes in an experimental facility. Our experiment revealed that different combinations of atmospheric CO2 concentration, air temperature, and soil moisture altered seedling emergence and establishment. Treatments directly and indirectly affected soil moisture, which was the best predictor of seedling establishment, though treatment effects differed among species.
The observed impacts, coupled with variations in the timing of seed arrival, are demonstrated as predictors of seedling emergence and establishment in ecosystems under global change.
Within a dry inner Alpine valley in the Eastern Central Alps (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) the influence of climate variables (precipitation, air humidity, temperature) and soil water content on intra-annual dynamics of tree-ring development was determined in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) at two sites differing in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site). Radial stem development was continuously followed during 2007 and 2008 by band dendrometers and repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree rings of mature trees. Daily and seasonal fluctuations of the stem radius, which reached almost half of total annual increment, primarily reflected changes in tree water status and masked radial stem growth especially during drought periods in spring. However, temporal dynamics of intra-annual radial growth determined by both methods were found to be quite similar, when onset of radial growth in dendrometer traces was defined by the occurrence of first enlarging xylem cells. Radial increments during the growing period, which lasted from early April through early August showed statistically significant relationships with precipitation (Kendall τ = 0.234, p < 0.01, and τ = 0.184, p < 0.05, at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively) and relative air humidity (Pearson r = 0.290, p < 0.05, and r = 0.306, p < 0.05 at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively). Soil water content and air temperature had no influence on radial stem increment. Culmination of radial stem growth was detected at both study plots around mid-May, prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions, i.e. an increase in precipitation during summer. We suggest that the early decrease in radial growth rate is due to a high belowground demand for carbohydrates to ensure adequate resource acquisition on the drought prone substrate.
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
Forest management under a changing climate requires assessing the effects of climate warming and disturbance on the composition, age structure, and spatial patterns of tree species. We investigated these effects on a boreal forest in northeastern China using a factorial experimental design and simulation modeling. We used a spatially explicit forest landscape model (LANDIS) to evaluate the effects of three independent variables: climate (current and expected future), fire regime (current and increased fire), and timber harvesting (no harvest and legal harvest). Simulations indicate that this forested landscape would be significantly impacted under a changing climate. Climate warming would significantly increase the abundance of most trees, especially broadleaf species (aspen, poplar, and willow). However, climate warming would have less impact on the abundance of conifers, diversity of forest age structure, and variation in spatial landscape structure than burning and harvesting. Burning was the predominant influence in the abundance of conifers except larch and the abundance of trees in mid-stage. Harvesting impacts were greatest for the abundance of larch and birch, and the abundance of trees during establishment stage (1–40 years), early stage (41–80 years) and old- growth stage (>180 years). Disturbance by timber harvesting and burning may significantly alter forest ecosystem dynamics by increasing forest fragmentation and decreasing forest diversity. Results from the simulations provide insight into the long term management of this boreal forest.
Stagnant atmospheric conditions can lead to hazardous air quality by allowing ozone and particulate matter to accumulate and persist in the near-surface environment. By changing atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns, global warming could alter the meteorological factors that regulate air stagnation frequency. We analyze the response of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) Air Stagnation Index (ASI) to anthropogenically enhanced radiative forcing using global climate model projections of late-21st century climate change (SRES A1B scenario). Our results indicate that the atmospheric conditions over the highly populated, highly industrialized regions of the eastern United States, Mediterranean Europe, and eastern China are particularly sensitive to global warming, with the occurrence of stagnant conditions projected to increase 12-to-25% relative to late-20th century stagnation frequencies (3-18+ days/year). Changes in the position/strength of the polar jet, in the occurrence of light surface winds, and in the number of precipitation-free days all contribute to more frequent late-21st century air mass stagnation over these high-population regions. In addition, we find substantial inter-model spread in the simulated response of stagnation conditions over some regions using either native or bias corrected global climate model simulations, suggesting that changes in the atmospheric circulation and/or the distribution of precipitation represent important sources of uncertainty in the response of air quality to global warming.
air quality; pollution; stagnation; climate change; meteorology; health impacts
At northern latitudes a rise in atmospheric humidity and precipitation is predicted as a consequence of global climate change. We studied several growth and functional traits of hybrid aspen (Populus tremula L.×P. tremuloides Michx.) in response to elevated atmospheric humidity (on average 7% over the ambient level) in a free air experimental facility during three growing seasons (2008–2010) in Estonia, which represents northern temperate climate (boreo-nemoral zone). Data were collected from three humidified (H) and three control (C) plots, and analysed using nested linear models. Elevated air humidity significantly reduced height, stem diameter and stem volume increments and transpiration of the trees whereas these effects remained highly significant also after considering the side effects from soil-related confounders within the 2.7 ha study area. Tree leaves were smaller, lighter and had lower leaf mass per area (LMA) in H plots. The magnitude and significance of the humidity treatment effect – inhibition of above-ground growth rate – was more pronounced in larger trees. The lower growth rate in the humidified plots can be partly explained by a decrease in transpiration-driven mass flow of NO3− in soil, resulting in a significant reduction in the measured uptake of N to foliage in the H plots. The results suggest that the potential growth improvement of fast-growing trees like aspens, due to increasing temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration, might be smaller than expected at high latitudes if a rise in atmospheric humidity simultaneously takes place.