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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
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.  Dendrochronological potential of the alpine shrub Rhododendron nivale on the south-eastern Tibetan Plateau 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(4):665-670.
Background and Aims
Shrubs and dwarf shrubs are wider spread on the Tibetan Plateau than trees and hence offer a unique opportunity to expand the present dendrochronological network into extreme environments beyond the survival limit of trees. Alpine shrublands on the Tibetan Plateau are characterized by rhododendron species. The dendrochronological potential of one alpine rhododendron species and its growth response to the extreme environment on the south-east Tibetan Plateau were investigated.
Twenty stem discs of the alpine snowy rhododendron (Rhododendron nivale) were collected close to the tongue of the Zuoqiupu Glacier in south-east Tibet, China. The skeleton plot technique was used for inter-comparison between samples to detect the growth pattern of each stem section. The ring-width chronology was developed by fitting a negative exponential function or a straight line of any slope. Bootstrapping correlations were calculated between the standard chronology and monthly climate data.
Key Results
The wood of snowy rhododendron is diffuse-porous with evenly distributed small-diameter vessels. It has well-defined growth rings. Most stem sections can be visually and statistically cross-dated. The resulting 75-year-long standard ring-width chronology is highly correlated with a timberline fir chronology about 200 km apart, providing a high degree of confidence in the cross-dating. The climate/growth association of alpine snowy rhododendron and of this timberline fir is similar, reflecting an impact of monthly mean minimum temperatures in November of the previous year and in July during the year of ring formation.
The alpine snowy rhododendron offers new research directions to investigate the environmental history of the Tibetan Plateau in those regions where up to now there was no chance of applying dendrochronology.
PMCID: PMC2729637  PMID: 19556264
South-east Tibetan Plateau; Rhododendron nivale; alpine shrub; growth ring; cross-dating; dendroclimatological potential; climate/growth association
9.  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
10.  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.
PMCID: PMC3191526  PMID: 22003269
Dendrometer; Drought; Dry inner Alpine valley; Pinus sylvestris; Radial growth; Xylem cell analysis
11.  Millennium-Scale Crossdating and Inter-Annual Climate Sensitivities of Standing California Redwoods 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102545.
Extremely decay-resistant wood and fire-resistant bark allow California’s redwoods to accumulate millennia of annual growth rings that can be useful in biological research. Whereas tree rings of Sequoiadendron giganteum (SEGI) helped formalize the study of dendrochronology and the principle of crossdating, those of Sequoia sempervirens (SESE) have proven much more difficult to decipher, greatly limiting dendroclimatic and other investigations of this species. We overcame these problems by climbing standing trees and coring trunks at multiple heights in 14 old-growth forest locations across California. Overall, we sampled 1,466 series with 483,712 annual rings from 120 trees and were able to crossdate 83% of SESE compared to 99% of SEGI rings. Standard and residual tree-ring chronologies spanning up to 1,685 years for SESE and 1,538 years for SEGI were created for each location to evaluate crossdating and to examine correlations between annual growth and climate. We used monthly values of temperature, precipitation, and drought severity as well as summer cloudiness to quantify potential drivers of inter-annual growth variation over century-long time series at each location. SESE chronologies exhibited a latitudinal gradient of climate sensitivities, contrasting cooler northern rainforests and warmer, drier southern forests. Radial growth increased with decreasing summer cloudiness in northern rainforests and a central SESE location. The strongest dendroclimatic relationship occurred in our southernmost SESE location, where radial growth correlated negatively with dry summer conditions and exhibited responses to historic fires. SEGI chronologies showed negative correlations with June temperature and positive correlations with previous October precipitation. More work is needed to understand quantitative relationships between SEGI radial growth and moisture availability, particularly snowmelt. Tree-ring chronologies developed here for both redwood species have numerous scientific applications, including determination of tree ages, accurate dating of fire-return intervals, archaeology, analyses of stable isotopes, long-term climate reconstructions, and quantifying rates of carbon sequestration.
PMCID: PMC4102271  PMID: 25029026
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Significant Mean and Extreme Climate Sensitivity of Norway Spruce and Silver Fir at Mid-Elevation Mesic Sites in the Alps 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50755.
Climate forcing is the major abiotic driver for forest ecosystem functioning and thus significantly affects the role of forests within the global carbon cycle and related ecosystem services. Annual radial increments of trees are probably the most valuable source of information to link tree growth and climate at long-term time scales, and have been used in a wide variety of investigations worldwide. However, especially in mountainous areas, tree-ring studies have focused on extreme environments where the climate sensitivity is perhaps greatest but are necessarily a biased representation of the forests within a region. We used tree-ring analyses to study two of the most important tree species growing in the Alps: Norway spruce (Picea abies) and silver fir (Abies alba). We developed tree-ring chronologies from 13 mesic mid-elevation sites (203 trees) and then compared them to monthly temperature and precipitation data for the period 1846–1995. Correlation functions, principal component analysis and fuzzy C-means clustering were applied to 1) assess the climate/growth relationships and their stationarity and consistency over time, and 2) extract common modes of variability in the species responses to mean and extreme climate variability. Our results highlight a clear, time-stable, and species-specific response to mean climate conditions. However, during the previous-year's growing season, which shows the strongest correlations, the primary difference between species is in their response to extreme events, not mean conditions. Mesic sites at mid-altitude are commonly underrepresented in tree-ring research; we showed that strong climatic controls of growth may exist even in those areas. Extreme climatic events may play a key role in defining the species-specific responses on climatic sensitivity and, with a global change perspective, specific divergent responses are likely to occur even where current conditions are less limited.
PMCID: PMC3510186  PMID: 23209823
15.  Tree rings of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) as a source of information about past climate in northern Poland 
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is a very common tree in Polish forests, and therefore was widely used as timber. A relatively large amount of available wood allowed a long-term chronology to be built up and used as a source of information about past climate. The analysis of reconstructed indexed values of mean temperature in 51-year moving intervals allowed the recognition of the coldest periods in the years 1207–1346, 1383–1425, 1455–1482, 1533–1574, 1627–1646, and 1694–1785. The analysis of extreme wide and narrow rings forms a complementary method of examining climatic data within tree rings. The tree ring widths, early wood and late wood widths of 16 samples were assessed during the period 1581–1676. The most apparent effect is noted in the dry summer of 1616. According to previous research and our findings, temperature from February to March seems to be one of the most stable climatic factors which influenced pine growth in Poland. Correlation coefficients in the calibration and validation procedure gave promising results for temperature reconstruction from the pine chronology.
PMCID: PMC3245383  PMID: 21174127
Dendrochronology; Dendroclimatology; Climate reconstruction; Scots pine
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Four Decades of Andean Timberline Migration and Implications for Biodiversity Loss with Climate Change 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74496.
Rapid 21st-century climate change may lead to large population decreases and extinction in tropical montane cloud forest species in the Andes. While prior research has focused on species migrations per se, ecotones may respond to different environmental factors than species. Even if species can migrate in response to climate change, if ecotones do not they can function as hard barriers to species migrations, making ecotone migrations central to understanding species persistence under scenarios of climate change. We examined a 42-year span of aerial photographs and high resolution satellite imagery to calculate migration rates of timberline–the grassland-forest ecotone–inside and outside of protected areas in the high Peruvian Andes. We found that timberline in protected areas was more likely to migrate upward in elevation than in areas with frequent cattle grazing and fire. However, rates in both protected (0.24 m yr−1) and unprotected (0.05 m yr−1) areas are only 0.5–2.3% of the rates needed to stay in equilibrium with projected climate by 2100. These ecotone migration rates are 12.5 to 110 times slower than the observed species migration rates within the same forest, suggesting a barrier to migration for mid- and high-elevation species. We anticipate that the ecotone will be a hard barrier to migration under future climate change, leading to drastic population and biodiversity losses in the region unless intensive management steps are taken.
PMCID: PMC3770544  PMID: 24040260
19.  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
20.  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.
PMCID: PMC3836407  PMID: 24273375
aboveground growth; drought; intra-annual growth; mixed conifer forest; phenology; tree growth
21.  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
22.  Radial Growth of Two Dominant Montane Conifer Tree Species in Response to Climate Change in North-Central China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112537.
North-Central China is a region in which the air temperature has clearly increased for several decades. Picea meyeri and Larix principis-rupprechtii are the most dominant co-occurring tree species within the cold coniferous forest belt ranging vertically from 1800 m to 2800 m a.s.l. in this region. Based on a tree-ring analysis of 292 increment cores sampled from 146 trees at different elevations, this study aimed to examine if the radial growth of the two species in response to climate is similar, whether the responses are consistent along altitudinal gradients and which species might be favored in the future driven by the changing climate. The results indicated the following: (1) The two species grew in different rhythms at low and high elevation respectively; (2) Both species displayed inconsistent relationships between radial growth and climate data along altitudinal gradients. The correlation between radial growth and the monthly mean temperature in the spring or summer changed from negative at low elevation into positive at high elevation, whereas those between the radial growth and the total monthly precipitation displayed a change from positive into negative along the elevation gradient. These indicate the different influences of the horizontal climate and vertical mountainous climate on the radial growth of the two species; (3) The species-dependent different response to climate in radial growth appeared mainly in autumn of the previous year. The radial growth of L. principis-rupprechtii displayed negative responses both to temperature and to precipitation in the previous September, October or November, which was not observed in the radial growth of P. meyeri. (4) The radial growth of both species will tend to be increased at high elevation and limited at low elevation, and L. principis-rupprechtii might be more favored in the future, if the temperature keeps rising.
PMCID: PMC4231039  PMID: 25393738
23.  An Ensemble Weighting Approach for Dendroclimatology: Drought Reconstructions for the Northeastern Tibetan Plateau 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86689.
Traditional detrending methods assign equal mean value to all tree-ring series for chronology developments, despite that the mean annual growth changes in different time periods. We find that the strength of a tree-ring model can be improved by giving more weights to tree-ring series that have a stronger climate signal and less weight to series that have a weaker signal. We thus present an ensemble weighting method to mitigate these potential biases and to more accurately extract the climate signals in dendroclimatology studies. This new method has been used to develop the first annual precipitation reconstruction (previous August to current July) at the Songmingyan Mountain and to recalculate the tree-ring chronology from Shenge site in Dulan area in northeastern Tibetan Plateau (TP), a marginal area of Asian summer monsoon. The ensemble weighting method explains 31.7% of instrumental variance for the reconstructions at Songmingyan Mountain and 57.3% of the instrumental variance in the Dulan area, which are higher than those developed using traditional methods. We focus on the newly introduced reconstruction at Songmingyan Mountain, which showsextremely dry (wet) epochs from 1862–1874, 1914–1933 and 1991–1999 (1882–1905). These dry/wet epochs were also found in the marginal areas of summer monsoon and the Indian subcontinent, indicating the linkages between regional hydroclimate changes and the Indian summer monsoon.
PMCID: PMC3908956  PMID: 24497967
24.  Growth-Mortality Relationships in Piñon Pine (Pinus edulis) during Severe Droughts of the Past Century: Shifting Processes in Space and Time 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e92770.
The processes leading to drought-associated tree mortality are poorly understood, particularly long-term predisposing factors, memory effects, and variability in mortality processes and thresholds in space and time. We use tree rings from four sites to investigate Pinus edulis mortality during two drought periods in the southwestern USA. We draw on recent sampling and archived collections to (1) analyze P. edulis growth patterns and mortality during the 1950s and 2000s droughts; (2) determine the influence of climate and competition on growth in trees that died and survived; and (3) derive regression models of growth-mortality risk and evaluate their performance across space and time. Recent growth was 53% higher in surviving vs. dying trees, with some sites exhibiting decades-long growth divergences associated with previous drought. Differential growth response to climate partly explained growth differences between live and dead trees, with responses wet/cool conditions most influencing eventual tree status. Competition constrained tree growth, and reduced trees’ ability to respond to favorable climate. The best predictors in growth-mortality models included long-term (15–30 year) average growth rate combined with a metric of growth variability and the number of abrupt growth increases over 15 and 10 years, respectively. The most parsimonious models had high discriminatory power (ROC>0.84) and correctly classified ∼70% of trees, suggesting that aspects of tree growth, especially over decades, can be powerful predictors of widespread drought-associated die-off. However, model discrimination varied across sites and drought events. Weaker growth-mortality relationships and higher growth at lower survival probabilities for some sites during the 2000s event suggest a shift in mortality processes from longer-term growth-related constraints to shorter-term processes, such as rapid metabolic decline even in vigorous trees due to acute drought stress, and/or increases in the attack rate of both chronically stressed and more vigorous trees by bark beetles.
PMCID: PMC4008371  PMID: 24786646
25.  Integrated metagenomics and network analysis of soil microbial community of the forest timberline 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:7994.
The forest timberline responds quickly and markedly to climate changes, rendering it a ready indicator. Climate warming has caused an upshift of the timberline worldwide. However, the impact on belowground ecosystem and biogeochemical cycles remain elusive. To understand soil microbial ecology of the timberline, we analyzed microbial communities via 16s rRNA Illumina sequencing, a microarray-based tool named GeoChip 4.0 and a random matrix theory-based association network approach. We selected 24 sampling sites at two vegetation belts forming the timberline of Shennongjia Mountain in Hubei Province of China, a region with extraordinarily rich biodiversity. We found that temperature, among all of measured environmental parameters, showed the most significant and extensive linkages with microbial biomass, microbial diversity and composition at both taxonomic and functional gene levels, and microbial association network. Therefore, temperature was the best predictor for microbial community variations in the timberline. Furthermore, abundances of nitrogen cycle and phosphorus cycle genes were concomitant with NH4+-N, NO3−-N and total phosphorus, offering tangible clues to the underlying mechanisms of soil biogeochemical cycles. As the first glimpse at both taxonomic and functional compositions of soil microbial community of the timberline, our findings have major implications for predicting consequences of future timberline upshift.
PMCID: PMC4303876  PMID: 25613225

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