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Title: Disturbance legacies and climate jointly drive tree growth and mortality in an intensively studied boreal forest

How will regional growth and mortality change with even relatively small climate shifts, even independent of catastrophic disturbances? This question is particularly acute for the North American boreal forest, which is carbon-dense and subject The goals of this study were to combine dendrochronological sampling, inventory records, and machine-learning algorithms to understand how tree growth and death have changed at one highly studied site (Northern Old Black Spruce, NOBS) in the central Canadian boreal forest. Over the 1999-2012 inventory period, mean DBH increased even as stand density and basal area declined significantly from 41.3 to 37.5 m2 ha-1. Tree mortality averaged 1.4±0.6% yr-1, with most mortality occurring in medium-sized trees. A combined tree ring chronology constructed from 2001, 2004, and 2012 sampling showed several periods of extreme growth depression, with increased mortality lagging depressed growth by ~5 years. Minimum and maximum air temperatures exerted a negative influence on tree growth, while precipitation and climate moisture index had a positive effect; both current- and previous-year data exerted significant effects. Models based on these variables explained 23-44% of the ring-width variability. There have been at least one, and probably two, significant recruitment episodes since stand initiation, and we infer that past climate extremesmore » led to significant NOBS mortality still visible in the current forest structure. These results imply that a combination of successional and demographic processes, along with mortality driven by abiotic factors, continue to affect the stand, with significant implications for our understanding of previous work at NOBS and the sustainable management of regional forests.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Global Change Biology, 20(1):216-227
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
boreal forest; black spruce; mortality; tree rings