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1.  Effects of climate variables on intra-annual stem radial increment in Pinus cembra (L.) along the alpine treeline ecotone 
Annals of forest science  2009;66(5):503.
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.
PMCID: PMC3059571  PMID: 21423861
dendrometer; Pinus cembra; radial increment; treeline ecotone; xylem formation
2.  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.
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
3.  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.
PMCID: PMC3083837  PMID: 21532976
Climate warming; moving response function; Pinus cembra; temperature sensitivity; tree ring
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3013296  PMID: 19203979
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
5.  Impact of drought on the temporal dynamics of wood formation in Pinus sylvestris 
Tree physiology  2010;30(4):490-501.
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.
PMCID: PMC3046340  PMID: 20197285
Cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; tracheid production; xylogenesis
6.  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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3718216  PMID: 23788748
Carbon supply; elevational gradient; Larix decidua; Nothofagus betuloides; Nothofagus pumilio; Patagonia; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Swiss Alps; Alpine treeline
7.  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.
PMCID: PMC3047780  PMID: 21379395
Alpine timberline; treeline; global warming; CO2; ozone; water balance; carbon gain
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3047779  PMID: 21379394
net photosynthesis; temperature; cembran pine; timberline ecotone; global warming
9.  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.
PMCID: PMC2606780  PMID: 18006415
Arctic; Eurasia; Holocene; boreal forest; treeline; climate change
10.  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.
PMCID: PMC3191523  PMID: 22003357
Non structural carbohydrates; seasonal variation; elevational gradient; timberline ecotone; treeline formation; treelife limitation
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC4035765  PMID: 24883053
Cambial activity; Climate–growth relationship; Conifers; Dendrometer; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth
12.  Intra-annual variability of anatomical structure and δ13C values within tree rings of spruce and pine in alpine, temperate and boreal Europe 
Oecologia  2009;161(4):729-745.
Tree-ring width, wood density, anatomical structure and 13C/12C ratios expressed as δ13C-values of whole wood of Picea abies were investigated for trees growing in closed canopy forest stands. Samples were collected from the alpine Renon site in North Italy, the lowland Hainich site in Central Germany and the boreal Flakaliden site in North Sweden. In addition, Pinus cembra was studied at the alpine site and Pinus sylvestris at the boreal site. The density profiles of tree rings were measured using the DENDRO-2003 densitometer, δ13C was measured using high-resolution laser-ablation-combustion-gas chromatography-infra-red mass spectrometry and anatomical characteristics of tree rings (tracheid diameter, cell-wall thickness, cell-wall area and cell-lumen area) were measured using an image analyzer. Based on long-term statistics, climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit, explained <20% of the variation in tree-ring width and wood density over consecutive years, while 29–58% of the variation in tree-ring width were explained by autocorrelation between tree rings. An intensive study of tree rings between 1999 and 2003 revealed that tree ring width and δ13C-values of whole wood were significantly correlated with length of the growing season, net radiation and vapor pressure deficit. The δ13C-values were not correlated with precipitation or temperature. A highly significant correlation was also found between δ13C of the early wood of one year and the late wood of the previous year, indicating a carry-over effect of the growing conditions of the previous season on current wood production. This latter effect may explain the high autocorrelation of long-term tree-ring statistics. The pattern, however, was complex, showing stepwise decreases as well as stepwise increases in the δ13C between late wood and early wood. The results are interpreted in the context of the biochemistry of wood formation and its linkage to storage products. It is clear that the relations between δ13C and tree-ring width and climate are multi-factorial in seasonal climates.
PMCID: PMC2744769  PMID: 19653008
Dendrochonology; Carbohydrate storage; Picea abies; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Tracheid lumen area; Wood density
13.  How the timberline formed: altitudinal changes in stand structure and dynamics around the timberline in central Japan 
Annals of Botany  2012;109(6):1165-1174.
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.
Key Results
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.
PMCID: PMC3336954  PMID: 22451598
Abies mariesii; Betula ermanii; climate change; disturbance; global warming; Pinus pumila; timberline
14.  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.
PMCID: PMC3357808  PMID: 21644455
Climate change; Treeline; Geomorphology; Tree rings; Larix decidua; European Alps
15.  Effects of environmental conditions on onset of xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris under drought 
Tree physiology  2011;31(5):483-493.
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.
PMCID: PMC3427020  PMID: 21593011
dry inner Alpine valley; heat-sum; phenology; Scots pine; wood formation; xylogenesis
16.  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.
PMCID: PMC3828375  PMID: 24244488
17.  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.
PMCID: PMC3247734  PMID: 22219689
point dendrometers; radial growth; tree rings; dendroecology; high elevation ecosystems; Mexican mountain pine; Pinus hartwegii Lindl.; Volcán de Fuego
18.  Xylem and phloem phenology in co-occurring conifers exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2014;28(4):1161-1171.
Key message
Variability in xylem and phloem phenology among years and species is caused by contrasting temperatures prevailing at the start of the growing season and species-specific sensitivity to drought.
The focus of this study was to determine temporal dynamics of xylem and phloem formation in co-occurring deciduous and evergreen coniferous species in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria). By repeated micro-sampling of the stem, timing of key phenological dates of xylem and phloem formation was compared among mature Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies during two consecutive years. Xylem formation in P. sylvestris started in mid and late April 2011 and 2012, respectively, and in both years about 2 week later in P. abies and L. decidua. Phloem formation preceded xylem formation on average by 3 week in P. sylvestris, and c. 5 week in P. abies and L. decidua. Based on modeled cell number increase, tracheid production peaked between early through late May 2011 and late May through mid-June 2012. Phloem formation culminated between late April and mid-May in 2011 and in late May 2012. Production of xylem and phloem cells continued for about 4 and 5–6 months, respectively. High variability in xylem increment among years and species is related to exogenous control by climatic factors and species-specific sensitivity to drought, respectively. On the other hand, production of phloem cells was quite homogenous and showed asymptotic decrease with respect to xylem cells indicating endogenous control. Results indicate that onset and culmination of xylem and phloem formation are controlled by early spring temperature, whereby strikingly advanced production of phloem compared to xylem cells suggests lower temperature requirement for initiation of the former.
PMCID: PMC4110670  PMID: 25071313
Cambium; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth; Phloem formation; Xylogenesis
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC3708892  PMID: 23874871
20.  Frost resistance in alpine woody plants 
This report provides a brief review of key findings related to frost resistance in alpine woody plant species, summarizes data on their frost resistance, highlights the importance of freeze avoidance mechanisms, and indicates areas of future research. Freezing temperatures are possible throughout the whole growing period in the alpine life zone. Frost severity, comprised of both intensity and duration, becomes greater with increasing elevation and, there is also a greater probability, that small statured woody plants, may be insulated by snow cover. Several frost survival mechanisms have evolved in woody alpine plants in response to these environmental conditions. Examples of tolerance to extracellular freezing and freeze dehydration, life cycles that allow species to escape frost, and freeze avoidance mechanisms can all be found. Despite their specific adaption to the alpine environment, frost damage can occur in spring, while all alpine woody plants have a low risk of frost damage in winter. Experimental evidence indicates that premature deacclimation in Pinus cembra in the spring, and a limited ability of many species of alpine woody shrubs to rapidly reacclimate when they lose snow cover, resulting in reduced levels of frost resistance in the spring, may be particularly critical under the projected changes in climate. In this review, frost resistance and specific frost survival mechanisms of different organs (leaves, stems, vegetative and reproductive over-wintering buds, flowers, and fruits) and tissues are compared. The seasonal dynamics of frost resistance of leaves of trees, as opposed to woody shrubs, is also discussed. The ability of some tissues and organs to avoid freezing by supercooling, as visualized by high resolution infrared thermography, are also provided. Collectively, the report provides a review of the complex and diverse ways that woody plants survive in the frost dominated environment of the alpine life zone.
PMCID: PMC4249714  PMID: 25520725
ice susceptibility; freezing avoidance; frost dehardening; frost hardening; supercooling
21.  Temporal dynamics of non-structural carbohydrates and xylem growth in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought 
Wood formation requires a continuous supply of carbohydrates for structural growth and metabolism. In the montane belt of the central Austrian Alps we monitored the temporal dynamics of xylem growth and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) in stem sapwood of Pinus sylvestris L. during the growing season 2009, which was characterized by exceptional soil dryness within the study area. Soil water content dropped below 10 % at the time of maximum xylem growth end of May. Histological analyses have been used to describe cambial activity and xylem growth. Determination of NSC was performed using specific enzymatic assays revealing that total NSC ranged from 0.8 to 1.7 % dry matter throughout the year. Significant variations (P < 0.05) of the size of the NSC pool were observed during the growing season. Starch showed persistent abundance throughout the year reaching a maximum shortly before onset of late wood formation in mid-July. Seasonal dynamics of NSC and xylem growth suggest that (i) high sink activity occurred at start of the growing season in spring and during late wood formation in summer and (ii) there was no particular shortage in NSC, which caused P. sylvestris to draw upon stem reserves more heavily during drought in 2009.
PMCID: PMC3191854  PMID: 22003262
22.  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.
PMCID: PMC4067323  PMID: 24956273
23.  Xylem and phloem phenology in co-occurring conifers exposed to drought 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2014;28(4):1161-1171.
The focus of this study was to determine temporal dynamics of xylem and phloem formation in co-occurring deciduous and evergreen coniferous species in a dry inner Alpine environment (750 m a.s.l., Tyrol, Austria). By repeated micro-sampling of the stem, timing of key phenological dates of xylem and phloem formation was compared among mature Pinus sylvestris, Larix decidua and Picea abies during two consecutive years. Xylem formation in P. sylvestris started in mid and late April 2011 and 2012, respectively, and in both years about 2 week later in P. abies and L. decidua. Phloem formation preceded xylem formation on average by 3 week in P. sylvestris, and c. 5 week in P. abies and L. decidua. Based on modeled cell number increase, tracheid production peaked between early through late May 2011 and late May through mid-June 2012. Phloem formation culminated between late April and mid-May in 2011 and in late May 2012. Production of xylem and phloem cells continued for about 4 and 5–6 months, respectively. High variability in xylem increment among years and species is related to exogenous control by climatic factors and species-specific sensitivity to drought, respectively. On the other hand, production of phloem cells was quite homogenous and showed asymptotic decrease with respect to xylem cells indicating endogenous control. Results indicate that onset and culmination of xylem and phloem formation are controlled by early spring temperature, whereby strikingly advanced production of phloem compared to xylem cells suggests lower temperature requirement for initiation of the former.
PMCID: PMC4110670  PMID: 25071313
Cambium; Drought; Intra-annual radial growth; Phloem formation; Xylogenesis
24.  A rapid decrease in temperature induces latewood formation in artificially reactivated cambium of conifer stems 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(4):875-885.
Background and Aims
Latewood formation in conifers occurs during the later part of the growing season, when the cell division activity of the cambium declines. Changes in temperature might be important for wood formation in trees. Therefore, the effects of a rapid decrease in temperature on cellular morphology of tracheids were investigated in localized heating-induced cambial reactivation in Cryptomeria japonica trees and in Abies firma seedlings.
Electric heating tape and heating ribbon were wrapped on the stems of C. japonica trees and A. firma seedlings. Heating was discontinued when 11 or 12 and eight or nine radial files of differentiating and differentiated tracheids had been produced in C. japonica and A. firma stems, respectively. Tracheid diameter, cell wall thickness, percentage of cell wall area and percentage of lumen area were determined by image analysis of transverse sections and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
Localized heating induced earlier cambial reactivation and xylem differentiation in stems of C. japonica and A. firma as compared with non-heated stems. One week after cessation of heating, there were no obvious changes in the dimensions of the differentiating tracheids in the samples from adult C. japonica. In contrast, tracheids with a smaller diameter were observed in A. firma seedlings after 1 week of cessation of heating. Two or three weeks after cessation of heating, tracheids with reduced diameters and thickened cell walls were found. The results showed that the rapid decrease in temperature produced slender tracheids with obvious thickening of cell walls that resembled latewood cells.
The results suggest that a localized decrease in temperature of stems induces changes in the diameter and cell wall thickness of differentiating tracheids, indicating that cambium and its derivatives can respond directly to changes in temperature.
PMCID: PMC3423807  PMID: 22843340
Cambial activity; conifers; latewood formation; morphology of tracheids; rapid decrease in temperature
25.  Cambial Activity and Intra-annual Xylem Formation in Roots and Stems of Abies balsamea and Picea mariana 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(5):667-674.
Background and Aims
Studies on xylogenesis focus essentially on the stem, whereas there is basically no information about the intra-annual growth of other parts of the tree. As roots strongly influence carbon allocation and tree development, knowledge of the dynamics of xylem production and maturation in roots at a short time scale is required for a better understanding of the phenomenon of tree growth. This study compared cambial activity and xylem formation in stem and roots in two conifers of the boreal forest in Canada.
Wood microcores were collected weekly in stem and roots of ten Abies balsamea and ten Picea mariana during the 2004–2006 growing seasons. Cross-sections were cut using a rotary microtome, stained with cresyl violet acetate and observed under visible and polarized light. The number of cells in the cambial zone and in differentiation, plus the number of mature cells, was counted along the developing xylem.
Key Results
Xylem formation lasted from the end of May to the end of September, with no difference between stem and roots in 2004–2005. On the contrary, in 2006 a 1-week earlier beginning of cell differentiation was observed in the stem, with cell wall thickening and lignification in roots ending up to 22 d later than in the stem. Cell production in the stem was concentrated early in the season, in June, while most cell divisions in roots occurred 1 month later.
The intra-annual dynamics of growth observed in stem and roots could be related to the different amount of cells produced by the cambium and the patterns of air and soil temperature occurring in spring.
PMCID: PMC2712372  PMID: 18708643
Abies balsamea; boreal forest; cambium; cell differentiation; cell wall thickening; lignification; Picea mariana; root; stem; xylem

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