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1.  Temporal dynamic of wood formation in Pinus cembra along the alpine treeline ecotone and the effect of climate variables 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2009;23(3):623-635.
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.
PMCID: PMC3078619  PMID: 21509148
Cambium; intra-annual growth; Pinus cembra; temperature; tracheid production
2.  Long-term changes in tree-ring – climate relationships at Mt. Patscherkofel (Tyrol, Austria) since the mid 1980s 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2008;22(1):31-40.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00468-007-0166-7
PMCID: PMC3083837  PMID: 21532976
Climate warming; moving response function; Pinus cembra; temperature sensitivity; tree ring
3.  Similar variation in carbon storage between deciduous and evergreen treeline species across elevational gradients 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(3):623-631.
Background and Aims
The most plausible explanation for treeline formation so far is provided by the growth limitation hypothesis (GLH), which proposes that carbon sinks are more restricted by low temperatures than by carbon sources. Evidence supporting the GLH has been strong in evergreen, but less and weaker in deciduous treeline species. Here a test is made of the GLH in deciduous–evergreen mixed species forests across elevational gradients, with the hypothesis that deciduous treeline species show a different carbon storage trend from that shown by evergreen species across elevations.
Methods
Tree growth and concentrations of non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) in foliage, branch sapwood and stem sapwood tissues were measured at four elevations in six deciduous–evergreen treeline ecotones (including treeline) in the southern Andes of Chile (40°S, Nothofagus pumilio and Nothofagus betuloides; 46°S, Nothofagus pumilio and Pinus sylvestris) and in the Swiss Alps (46°N, Larix decidua and Pinus cembra).
Key Results
Tree growth (basal area increment) decreased with elevation for all species. Regardless of foliar habit, NSCs did not deplete across elevations, indicating no shortage of carbon storage in any of the investigated tissues. Rather, NSCs increased significantly with elevation in leaves (P < 0·001) and branch sapwood (P = 0·012) tissues. Deciduous species showed significantly higher NSCs than evergreens for all tissues; on average, the former had 11 % (leaves), 158 % (branch) and 103 % (sapwood) significantly (P < 0·001) higher NSCs than the latter. Finally, deciduous species had higher NSC (particularly starch) increases with elevation than evergreens for stem sapwood, but the opposite was true for leaves and branch sapwood.
Conclusions
Considering the observed decrease in tree growth and increase in NSCs with elevation, it is concluded that both deciduous and evergreen treeline species are sink limited when faced with decreasing temperatures. Despite the overall higher requirements of deciduous tree species for carbon storage, no indication was found of carbon limitation in deciduous species in the alpine treeline ecotone.
doi:10.1093/aob/mct127
PMCID: PMC3718216  PMID: 23788748
Carbon supply; elevational gradient; Larix decidua; Nothofagus betuloides; Nothofagus pumilio; Patagonia; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Swiss Alps; Alpine treeline
4.  Intra-annual dynamics of stem CO2 efflux in relation to cambial activity and xylem development in Pinus cembra 
Tree physiology  2009;29(5):641-649.
Summary
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.
doi:10.1093/treephys/tpp001
PMCID: PMC3013296  PMID: 19203979
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
5.  Radial stem growth in response to microclimate and soil moisture in a drought-prone mixed coniferous forest at an inner Alpine site 
European journal of forest research  2014;133(3):467-479.
Dendroclimatological studies in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l.) revealed different growth response of co-occurring coniferous species to climate, which is assumed to be caused by a temporal shift in wood formation among species. The main focus of this study therefore was to monitor intra-annual dynamics of radial increment growth of mature deciduous and evergreen coniferous species (Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies) during two consecutive years with contrasting climatic conditions. Radial stem growth was continuously followed by band dendrometers and modelled using Gompertz functions to determine time of maximum growth. Histological analyses of tree ring formation allowed determination of temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell development. Daily fluctuations in stem radius and radial stem increments were extracted from dendrometer traces, and correlations with environmental variables were performed. While a shift in temporal dynamics of radial growth onset and cessation was detected among co-occurring species, intra-annual radial growth peaked synchronously in late May 2011 and early June 2012. Moist atmospheric conditions, i.e. high relative air humidity, low vapour pressure deficit and low air temperature during the main growing period, favoured radial stem increment of all species. Soil water content and soil temperature were not significantly related to radial growth. Although a temporal shift in onset and cessation of wood formation was detected among species, synchronous culmination of radial growth indicates homogenous exogenous and/or endogenous control. The close coupling of radial growth to atmospheric conditions points to the importance of stem water status for intra-annual growth of drought-prone conifers.
doi:10.1007/s10342-013-0777-z
PMCID: PMC4035765  PMID: 24883053
Cambial activity; Climate–growth relationship; Conifers; Dendrometer; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth
6.  Climatic influences on intra-annual stem radial increment of Pinus sylvestris (L.) exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2010;24(5):887-898.
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.
doi:10.1007/s00468-010-0458-1
PMCID: PMC3191526  PMID: 22003269
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
7.  Spatial and seasonal variations in mobile carbohydrates in Pinus cembra in the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps 
European journal of forest research  2011;130(2):173-179.
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.
doi:10.1007/s10342-010-0419-7
PMCID: PMC3191523  PMID: 22003357
Non structural carbohydrates; seasonal variation; elevational gradient; timberline ecotone; treeline formation; treelife limitation
8.  Cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra and Pinus sylvestris at their climatic limits in the Eastern Alps in 2007 
Phyton; annales rei botanicae  2011;51(2):299-313.
Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3837289  PMID: 24273354
Alpine timberline; cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; Stone pine; wood anatomy; xylogenesis
9.  Impact of drought on the temporal dynamics of wood formation in Pinus sylvestris 
Tree physiology  2010;30(4):490-501.
Summary
We determined the temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell differentiation of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) within a dry inner Alpine valley (750 m asl, Tyrol, Austria), where radial growth is strongly limited by drought in spring. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring of mature trees was carried out during 2 contrasting years at two study plots that differ in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site).
In 2007, when air temperature at the beginning of the growing season in April exceeded the long-term mean by 6.4 °C, cambial cell division started in early April at both study plots. A delayed onset of cambial activity of c. 2 wk was found in 2008, when average climate conditions prevailed in spring, indicating that resumption of cambial cell division after winter dormancy is temperature-controlled. Cambial cell division consistently ended about the end of June/early July in both study years. Radial enlargement of tracheids started almost 3 wk earlier in 2007 compared with 2008 at both study plots. At the xeric site, the maximum rate of tracheid production in 2007 and 2008 was reached in early and mid-May, respectively, and c. 2 wk later, at the dry-mesic site. Since in both study years, more favorable growing conditions (i.e., an increase in soil water content) were recorded during summer, we suggest a strong sink competition for carbohydrates to mycorrhizal root and shoot growth. Wood formation stopped c. 4 wk earlier at the xeric compared with the dry-mesic site in both years, indicating a strong influence of drought stress on cell differentiation. This is supported by radial widths of earlywood cells, which were found to be significantly narrower at the xeric than at the dry-mesic site (P < 0.05).
Repeated cellular analyses during the two growing seasons revealed that, although spatial variability in the dynamics and duration of cell differentiation processes in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought is strongly influenced by water availability, the onset of cambial activity and cell differentiation is controlled by temperature.
doi:10.1093/treephys/tpq003
PMCID: PMC3046340  PMID: 20197285
Cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; tracheid production; xylogenesis
10.  Radial Growth of Qilian Juniper on the Northeast Tibetan Plateau and Potential Climate Associations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79362.
There is controversy regarding the limiting climatic factor for tree radial growth at the alpine treeline on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. In this study, we collected 594 increment cores from 331 trees, grouped within four altitude belts spanning the range 3550 to 4020 m.a.s.l. on a single hillside. We have developed four equivalent ring-width chronologies and shown that there are no significant differences in their growth-climate responses during 1956 to 2011 or in their longer-term growth patterns during the period AD 1110–2011. The main climate influence on radial growth is shown to be precipitation variability. Missing ring analysis shows that tree radial growth at the uppermost treeline location is more sensitive to climate variation than that at other elevations, and poor tree radial growth is particularly linked to the occurrence of serious drought events. Hence water limitation, rather than temperature stress, plays the pivotal role in controlling the radial growth of Sabina przewalskii Kom. at the treeline in this region. This finding contradicts any generalisation that tree-ring chronologies from high-elevation treeline environments are mostly indicators of temperature changes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079362
PMCID: PMC3828375  PMID: 24244488
11.  Effects of atmospheric and climate change at the timberline of the Central European Alps 
Annals of forest science  2009;66(4):402.
This review considers potential effects of atmospheric change and climate warming within the timberline ecotone of the Central European Alps. After focusing on the impacts of ozone (O3) and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration, effects of climate warming on the carbon and water balance of timberline trees and forests will be outlined towards conclusions about changes in tree growth and treeline dynamics.Presently, ambient ground-level O3 concentrations do not exert crucial stress on adult conifers at the timberline of the Central European Alps. In response to elevated atmospheric CO2 Larix decidua showed growth increase, whereas no such response was found in Pinus uncinata. Overall climate warming appears as the factor responsible for the observed growth stimulation of timberline trees.Increased seedling re-establishment in the Central European Alps however, resulted from invasion into potential habitats rather than upward migration due to climate change, although seedlings will only reach tree size upon successful coupling with the atmosphere and thus loosing the beneficial microclimate of low stature vegetation.In conclusion, future climate extremes are more likely than the gradual temperature increase to control treeline dynamics in the Central European Alps.
doi:10.1051/forest/2009023
PMCID: PMC3047780  PMID: 21379395
Alpine timberline; treeline; global warming; CO2; ozone; water balance; carbon gain
12.  Using Automated Point Dendrometers to Analyze Tropical Treeline Stem Growth at Nevado de Colima, Mexico 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2010;10(6):5827-5844.
The relationship between wood growth and environmental variability at the tropical treeline of North America was investigated using automated, solar-powered sensors (a meteorological station and two dendrometer clusters) installed on Nevado de Colima, Mexico (19° 35′ N, 103° 37′ W, 3,760 m a.s.l.). Pure stands of Pinus hartwegii Lindl. (Mexican mountain pine) were targeted because of their suitability for tree-ring analysis in low-latitude, high-elevation, North American Monsoon environments. Stem size and hydroclimatic variables recorded at half-hour intervals were summarized on a daily timescale. Power outages, insect outbreaks, and sensor failures limited the analysis to non-consecutive months during 2001–2003 at one dendrometer site, and during 2002–2005 at the other. Combined data from the two sites showed that maximum radial growth rates occur in late spring (May), as soil temperature increases, and incoming short-wave radiation reaches its highest values. Early season (April–May) radial increment correlated directly with temperature, especially of the soil, and with solar radiation. Stem expansion at the start of the summer monsoon (June–July) was mostly influenced by moisture, and revealed a drought signal, while late season relationships were more varied.
doi:10.3390/s100605827
PMCID: PMC3247734  PMID: 22219689
point dendrometers; radial growth; tree rings; dendroecology; high elevation ecosystems; Mexican mountain pine; Pinus hartwegii Lindl.; Volcán de Fuego
13.  Tree water status and growth of saplings and mature Norway spruce (Picea abies) at a dry distribution limit 
We evaluated the size effect on stem water status and growth in Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) occurring at the edge of its natural range in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m asl, Tyrol, Austria). Intra-annual dynamics of stem water deficit (ΔW), maximum daily shrinkage (MDS), and radial growth (RG) were compared among saplings (stem diameter/height: 2.2 cm/93 cm; n = 7) and mature adult trees (25 cm/12.7 m; n = 6) during 2014. ΔW, MDS, and RG were extracted from stem diameter variations, which were continuously recorded by automatic dendrometers and the influence of environmental drivers was evaluated by applying moving correlation analysis (MCA). Additionally, we used Morlet wavelet analysis to assess the differences in cyclic radial stem variations between saplings and mature trees. Results indicate that saplings and mature trees were experiencing water limitation throughout the growing season. However, saplings exhibited a more strained stem water status and higher sensitivity to environmental conditions than mature trees. Hence, the significantly lower radial increments in saplings (0.16 ± 0.03 mm) compared to mature trees (0.54 ± 0.14 mm) is related to more constrained water status in the former, affecting the rate and duration of RG. The wavelet analysis consistently revealed more distinct diurnal stem variations in saplings compared to mature trees. Intra-annual RG was most closely related to climate variables that influence transpiration, i.e., vapor pressure deficit, relative air humidity, and air temperature. MCA, however, showed pronounced instability of climate–growth relationships, which masked missing temporal or significant correlations when the entire study period (April–October) was considered. We conclude that an increase in evaporative demand will impair regeneration and long-term stability of drought-prone inner Alpine Norway spruce forests.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00703
PMCID: PMC4561357  PMID: 26442019
dendrometer; dry inner Alpine valley; maximum daily shrinkage; Picea abies; radial growth; stem water deficit; wavelet analysis
14.  Effects of environmental conditions on onset of xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris under drought 
Tree physiology  2011;31(5):483-493.
Summary
We determined influence of environmental factors (air and soil temperature, precipitation, photoperiod) on onset of xylem growth in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) within a dry inner Alpine valley (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria) by repeatedly sampling micro-cores throughout 2007-2010 at two sites (xeric and dry-mesic) at the start of the growing season. Temperature sums were calculated in degree-days (DD) ≥ 5 °C from 1 January and 20 March, i.e. spring equinox, to account for photoperiodic control of release from winter dormancy. Threshold temperatures at which xylogenesis had a 0.5 probability of being active were calculated by logistic regression. Onset of xylem growth, which was not significantly different between the xeric and dry-mesic site, ranged from mid-April in 2007 to early May in 2008. Among most study years statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) in onset of xylem growth were detected. Mean air temperature sums calculated from 1 January until onset of xylem growth were 230 ± 44 DD (mean ± standard deviation) at the xeric and 205 ± 36 DD at the dry-mesic site. Temperature sums calculated from spring equinox until onset of xylem growth showed quite less variability during the four year study period amounting to 144 ± 10 and 137 ± 12 DD at the xeric and dry-mesic site, respectively. At both sites xylem growth was active when daily minimum, mean and maximum air temperatures were 5.3, 10.1 and 16.2 °C, respectively. Soil temperature thresholds and DD until onset of xylem growth differed significantly between sites indicating minor importance of root-zone temperature for onset of xylem growth. Although spring precipitation is known to limit radial growth in P. sylvestris exposed to dry inner Alpine climate, results of this study revealed that (i) a daily minimum air temperature threshold for onset of xylem growth in the range of 5-6 °C exists and (ii) air temperature sum rather than precipitation or soil temperature triggers start of xylem growth. Based on these findings we suggest that drought stress forces P. sylvestris to draw upon water reserves in the stem for enlargement of first tracheids after cambial resumption in spring.
doi:10.1093/treephys/tpr034
PMCID: PMC3427020  PMID: 21593011
dry inner Alpine valley; heat-sum; phenology; Scots pine; wood formation; xylogenesis
15.  Comparing growth phenology of co-occurring deciduous and evergreen conifers exposed to drought 
Flora  2013;208(10-12):609-617.
Plant phenological events are influenced by climate factors such as temperature and rainfall. To evaluate phenological responses to water availability in a Spring Heath-Pine wood (Erico-Pinetum typicum), the focus of this study was to determine intra-annual dynamics of apical and lateral growth of co-occurring early successional Larix decidua and Pinus sylvestris and late successional Picea abies exposed to drought. The effect of reduced plant water availability on growth phenology was investigated by conducting a rainfall exclusion experiment. Timing of key phenological dates (onset, maximum rate, end, duration) of growth processes were compared among species at the rain-sheltered and control plot during 2011 and 2012. Shoot and needle elongation were monitored on lateral branches in the canopy at c. 16 m height and radial growth was recorded by automatic dendrometers at c. 1.3 m height of > 120 yr old trees. Different sequences in aboveground growth phenology were detected among the three species under the same growing conditions. While onset of radial growth in April through early May was considerably preceded by onset of needle growth in Larix decidua (5 - 6 weeks) and shoot growth in Pinus sylvestris (c. 3 weeks), it occurred quite simultaneously with onset of shoot growth in Picea abies. Low water availability had a minor impact on onset of aboveground growth, which is related to utilization of stored water, but caused premature cessation of aboveground growth. At the control plot mean growing season length was 130 days in Pinus sylvestris, 95 days in Larix decidua and 73 days in Picea abies supporting the hypothesis that early successional species are resource expenders, while late successional species are more efficient in utilizing resources and develop safer life strategies. High synchronicity found in culmination of radial growth in late spring (mid-May through early June) prior to occurrence of more favourable environmental conditions in summer might indicate sink competition for carbohydrates to belowground organs. This is supported by completion of apical growth in mid June in all species, except for needle growth of Pinus sylvestris, which lasted until early August. Phenological observations of conifers exposed to drought revealed that tree water status early during the growing season determines total annual aboveground growth and besides temperature, species-specific endogenous and/or environmental factors (most likely photoperiod and/or different threshold temperatures) are involved in controlling apical and lateral growth resumption after winter dormancy.
doi:10.1016/j.flora.2013.09.004
PMCID: PMC3836407  PMID: 24273375
aboveground growth; drought; intra-annual growth; mixed conifer forest; phenology; tree growth
16.  Climate change and the northern Russian treeline zone 
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.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2200
PMCID: PMC2606780  PMID: 18006415
Arctic; Eurasia; Holocene; boreal forest; treeline; climate change
17.  Growth and Phenology of Three Dwarf Shrub Species in a Six-Year Soil Warming Experiment at the Alpine Treeline 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100577.
Global warming can have substantial impacts on the phenological and growth patterns of alpine and Arctic species, resulting in shifts in plant community composition and ecosystem dynamics. We evaluated the effects of a six-year experimental soil warming treatment (+4°C, 2007–2012) on the phenology and growth of three co-dominant dwarf shrub species growing in the understory of Larix decidua and Pinus uncinata at treeline in the Swiss Alps. We monitored vegetative and reproductive phenology of Vaccinium myrtillus, Vaccinium gaultherioides and Empetrum hermaphroditum throughout the early growing season of 2012 and, following a major harvest at peak season, we measured the biomass of above-ground ramet fractions. For all six years of soil warming we measured annual shoot growth of the three species and analyzed ramet age and xylem ring width of V. myrtillus. Our results show that phenology of the three species was more influenced by snowmelt timing, and also by plot tree species (Larix or Pinus) in the case of V. myrtillus, than by soil warming. However, the warming treatment led to increased V. myrtillus total above-ground ramet biomass (+36% in 2012), especially new shoot biomass (+63% in 2012), as well as increased new shoot increment length and xylem ring width (+22% and +41%, respectively; average for 2007–2012). These results indicate enhanced overall growth of V. myrtillus under soil warming that was sustained over six years and was not caused by an extended growing period in early summer. In contrast, E. hermaphroditum only showed a positive shoot growth response to warming in 2011 (+21%), and V. gaultherioides showed no significant growth response. Our results indicate that V. myrtillus might have a competitive advantage over the less responsive co-occurring dwarf shrub species under future global warming.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100577
PMCID: PMC4067323  PMID: 24956273
18.  Warming and neighbor removal affect white spruce seedling growth differently above and below treeline 
SpringerPlus  2015;4:79.
Climate change is expected to be pronounced towards higher latitudes and altitudes. Warming triggers treeline and vegetation shifts, which may aggravate interspecific competition and affect biodiversity. This research tested the effects of a warming climate, habitat type, and neighboring plant competition on the establishment and growth of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) seedlings in a subarctic mountain region. P. glauca seedlings were planted in June 2010 under 4 different treatments (high/control temperatures, with/without competition) in 3 habitats (alpine ridge above treeline/tundra near treeline /forest below treeline habitats). After two growing seasons in 2011, growth, photosynthesis and foliar C and N data were obtained from a total of 156, one-and-a-half year old seedlings that had survived. Elevated temperatures increased growth and photosynthetic rates above and near treeline, but decreased them below treeline. Competition was increased by elevated temperatures in all habitat types. Our results suggest that increasing temperatures will have positive effects on the growth of P. glauca seedlings at the locations where P. glauca is expected to expand its habitat, but increasing temperatures may have negative effects on seedlings growing in mature forests. Due to interspecific competition, possibly belowground competition, the upslope expansion of treelines may not be as fast in the future as it was the last fifty years.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40064-015-0833-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s40064-015-0833-x
PMCID: PMC4339320  PMID: 25729635
Picea glauca; Boreal forest; Climate change; Competition; Subarctic; Alaska
19.  Changes in ground beetle assemblages above and below the treeline of the Dolomites after almost 30 years (1980/2009) 
Ecology and Evolution  2014;4(8):1284-1294.
Very little is known about the changes of ground beetle assemblages in the last few decades in the Alps, and different responses to climate change of animal populations living above and below the treeline have not been estimated yet. This study focuses on an altitudinal habitat sequence from subalpine spruce forest to alpine grassland in a low disturbance area of the southeastern Dolomites in Italy, the Paneveggio Regional Park. We compared the ground beetle (Carabidae) populations sampled in 1980 in six stands below and above the treeline (1650–2250 m a.s.l.) with those sampled in the same sites almost 30 years later (2008/9). Quantitative data (species richness and abundance) have been compared by means of several diversity indexes and with a new index, the Index of Rank-abundance Change (IRC). Our work shows that species richness and abundance have changed after almost 30 years as a consequence of local extinctions, uphill increment of abundance and uphill shift of distribution range. The overall species number dropped from 36 to 27, while in the sites above the treeline, species richness and abundance changed more than in the forest sites. Two microtherm characteristic species of the pioneer cushion grass mats, Nebria germari and Trechus dolomitanus, became extinct or showed strong abundance reduction. In Nardetum pastures, several hygrophilic species disappeared, and xerophilic zoophytophagous elements raised their population density. In forest ecosystems, the precipitation reduction caused deep soil texture and watering changes, driving a transformation from Sphagnum-rich (peaty) to humus-rich soil, and as a consequence, soil invertebrate biomass strongly increased and thermophilic carabids enriched the species structure. In three decades, Carabid assemblages changed consistently with the hypothesis that climate change is one of the main factors triggering natural environment modifications. Furthermore, the level of human disturbance could enhance the sensitivity of mountain ecosystems to climate change.
doi:10.1002/ece3.927
PMCID: PMC4020689  PMID: 24834326
Carabids; dolomites; global change; mountain
20.  Climate Control on Tree Growth at the Upper and Lower Treelines: A Case Study in the Qilian Mountains, Tibetan Plateau 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69065.
It is generally hypothesized that tree growth at the upper treeline is normally controlled by temperature while that at the lower treeline is precipitation limited. However, uniform patterns of inter-annual ring-width variations along altitudinal gradients are also observed in some situations. How changing elevation influences tree growth in the cold and arid Qilian Mountains, on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, is of considerable interest because of the sensitivity of the region’s local climate to different atmospheric circulation patterns. Here, a network of four Qilian juniper (Sabina przewalskii Kom.) ring-width chronologies was developed from trees distributed on a typical mountain slope at elevations ranging from 3000 to 3520 m above sea level (a.s.l.). The statistical characteristics of the four tree-ring chronologies show no significant correlation with increasing elevation. All the sampled tree growth was controlled by a common climatic signal (local precipitation) across the investigated altitudinal gradient (520 m). During the common reliable period, covering the past 450 years, the four chronologies have exhibited coherent growth patterns in both the high- and low-frequency domains. These results contradict the notion of contrasting climate growth controls at higher and lower elevations, and specifically the assumption that inter-annual tree-growth variability is controlled by temperature at the upper treeline. It should be stressed that these results relate to the relatively arid conditions at the sampling sites in the Qilian Mountains.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069065
PMCID: PMC3708892  PMID: 23874871
21.  Plasticity in variation of xylem and phloem cell characteristics of Norway spruce under different local conditions 
There is limited information on intra-annual plasticity of secondary tissues of tree species growing under different environmental conditions. To increase the knowledge about the plasticity of secondary growth, which allows trees to adapt to specific local climatic regimes, we examined climate–radial growth relationships of Norway spruce [Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.] from three contrasting locations in the temperate climatic zone by analyzing tree-ring widths for the period 1932–2010, and cell characteristics in xylem and phloem increments formed in the years 2009–2011. Variation in the structure of xylem and phloem increments clearly shows that plasticity in seasonal dynamics of cambial cell production and cell differentiation exists on xylem and phloem sides. Anatomical characteristics of xylem and phloem cells are predominantly site-specific characteristics, because they varied among sites but were fairly uniform among years in trees from the same site. Xylem and phloem tissues formed in the first part of the growing season seemed to be more stable in structure, indicating their priority over latewood and late phloem for tree performance. Long-term climate and radial growth analyses revealed that growth was in general less dependent on precipitation than on temperature; however, growth sensitivity to local conditions differed among the sites. Only partial dependence of radial growth of spruce on climatic factors on the selected sites confirms its strategy to adapt the structure of wood and phloem increments to function optimally in local conditions.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00730
PMCID: PMC4564692  PMID: 26442044
cambium; growth/climate relation; Picea abies; tracheid; tracheidogram; cell differentiation; sieve cell; phloemogram
22.  Climate Warming and the Recent Treeline Shift in the European Alps: The Role of Geomorphological Factors in High-Altitude Sites 
Ambio  2010;40(3):264-273.
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.
doi:10.1007/s13280-010-0096-2
PMCID: PMC3357808  PMID: 21644455
Climate change; Treeline; Geomorphology; Tree rings; Larix decidua; European Alps
23.  Limited Growth Recovery after Drought-Induced Forest Dieback in Very Defoliated Trees of Two Pine Species 
Mediterranean pine forests display high resilience after extreme climatic events such as severe droughts. However, recent dry spells causing growth decline and triggering forest dieback challenge the capacity of some forests to recover following major disturbances. To describe how resilient the responses of forests to drought can be, we quantified growth dynamics in plantations of two pine species (Scots pine, black pine) located in south-eastern Spain and showing drought-triggered dieback. Radial growth was characterized at inter- (tree-ring width) and intra-annual (xylogenesis) scales in three defoliation levels. It was assumed that the higher defoliation the more negative the impact of drought on tree growth. Tree-ring width chronologies were built and xylogenesis was characterized 3 years after the last severe drought occurred. Annual growth data and the number of tracheids produced in different stages of xylem formation were related to climate data at several time scales. Drought negatively impacted growth of the most defoliated trees in both pine species. In Scots pine, xylem formation started earlier in the non-defoliated than in the most defoliated trees. Defoliated trees presented the shortest duration of the radial-enlargement phase in both species. On average the most defoliated trees formed 60% of the number of mature tracheids formed by the non-defoliated trees in both species. Since radial enlargement is the xylogenesis phase most tightly related to final growth, this explains why the most defoliated trees grew the least due to their altered xylogenesis phases. Our findings indicate a very limited resilience capacity of drought-defoliated Scots and black pines. Moreover, droughts produce legacy effects on xylogenesis of highly defoliated trees which could not recover previous growth rates and are thus more prone to die.
doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00418
PMCID: PMC4817349  PMID: 27066053
dendroecology; die-off; extreme climate event; forest resilience; Pinus nigra; Pinus sylvestris; xylem; xylogenesis
24.  How to catch the patch? A dendrometer study of the radial increment through successive cambia in the mangrove Avicennia 
Annals of Botany  2014;113(4):741-752.
Background and Aims
Successive vascular cambia are involved in the secondary growth of at least 200 woody species from >30 plant families. In the mangrove Avicennia these successive cambia are organized in patches, creating stems with non-concentric xylem tissue surrounded by internal phloem tissue. Little is known about radial growth and tree stem dynamics in trees with this type of anatomy. This study aims to (1) clarify the process of secondary growth of Avicennia trees by studying its patchiness; and (2) study the radial increment of Avicennia stems, both temporary and permanent, in relation to local climatic and environmental conditions. A test is made of the hypothesis that patchy radial growth and stem dynamics enable Avicennia trees to better survive conditions of extreme physiological drought.
Methods
Stem variations were monitored by automatic point dendrometers at four different positions around and along the stem of two Avicennia marina trees in the mangrove forest of Gazi Bay (Kenya) during 1 year.
Key Results
Patchiness was found in the radial growth and shrinkage and swelling patterns of Avicennia stems. It was, however, potentially rather than systematically present, i.e. stems reacted either concentrically or patchily to environment triggers, and it was fresh water availability and not tidal inundation that affected radial increment.
Conclusions
It is concluded that the ability to develop successive cambia in a patchy way enables Avicennia trees to adapt to changes in the prevailing environmental conditions, enhancing its survival in the highly dynamic mangrove environment. Limited water could be used in a more directive way, investing all the attainable resources in only some locations of the tree stem so that at least at these locations there is enough water to, for example, overcome vessel embolisms or create new cells. As these locations change with time, the overall functioning of the tree can be maintained.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcu001
PMCID: PMC3936594  PMID: 24510216
Automatic point dendrometers; Avicennia marina; local climate and environmental conditions; mangrove; patchy growth; pinning analysis; radial tree stem dynamics; successive cambia
25.  Photosynthetic temperature adaptation of Pinus cembra within the timberline ecotone of the Central Austrian Alps 
Annals of forest science  2010;67(2):201.
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.
doi:10.1051/forest/2009094
PMCID: PMC3047779  PMID: 21379394
net photosynthesis; temperature; cembran pine; timberline ecotone; global warming

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