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Tree-ring isotopes suggest atmospheric drying limits temperature–growth responses of treeline bristlecone pine / Hugo J de Boer; Iain Robertson; Rory Clisby; Neil J Loader; Mary Gagen; Giles H F Young; Friederike Wagner-Cremer; Charles R Hipkin; Danny McCarroll
Tree Physiology, Volume: 39, Issue: 6, Pages: 983 - 999
Swansea University Author: McCarroll, Danny
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Altitudinally separated bristlecone pine populations in the White Mountains (California, USA) exhibit differential climate–growth responses as temperature and tree-water relations change with altitude. These populations provide a natural experiment to explore the ecophysiological adaptations of this...
|Published in:||Tree Physiology|
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Altitudinally separated bristlecone pine populations in the White Mountains (California, USA) exhibit differential climate–growth responses as temperature and tree-water relations change with altitude. These populations provide a natural experiment to explore the ecophysiological adaptations of this unique tree species to the twentieth century climate variability. We developed absolutely dated annual ring-width chronologies, and cellulose stable carbon and oxygen isotope chronologies from bristlecone pine growing at the treeline (~3500 m) and ~200 m below for the period AD 1710–2010. These chronologies were interpreted in terms of ecophysiological adaptations to climate variability with a dual-isotope model and a leaf gas exchange model. Ring widths show positive tree growth anomalies at treeline and consistently slower growth below treeline in relation to the twentieth century warming and associated atmospheric drying until the 1980s. Growth rates of both populations declined during and after the 1980s when growing-season temperature and atmospheric vapour pressure deficit continued to increase. Our model-based interpretations of the cellulose stable isotopes indicate that positive treeline growth anomalies prior to the 1980s were related to increased stomatal conductance and leaf-level transpiration and photosynthesis. Reduced growth since the 1980s occurred with a shift to more conservative leaf gas exchange in both the treeline and below-treeline populations, whereas leaf-level photosynthesis continued to increase in response to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Our results suggest that warming-induced atmospheric drying confounds positive growth responses of apparent temperature-limited bristlecone pine populations at treeline. In addition, the observed ecophysiological responses of attitudinally separated bristlecone pine populations illustrate the sensitivity of conifers to climate change.
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