Impacts of Climatic Variation on the Growth of Black Spruce Across the Forest-Tundra Ecotone: Positive Effects of Warm Growing Seasons and Heat Waves Are Offset by Late Spring Frosts

Guillaume Moreau, Catherine Chagnon, David Auty, John Caspersen, Alexis Achim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Climate strongly limits the physiological processes of trees near their range limits, leading to increased growth sensitivity. Northeastern North America is experiencing considerable warming, so the growth of trees near the northern treeline represents a key indicator of forest responses to climate change. However, tree-ring series and corresponding climatic data are scarce across the forest-tundra ecotone when compared to southern boreal regions, resulting in fewer studies on growth-climate relationships focused on this ecotone. Using daily climatic data, we identified trends in growing season heat accumulation and the intensity of acute climatic events over the last several decades in the southern and the northern parts of the forest-tundra ecotone in northeastern North America, and investigated their influence on black spruce radial growth. We found that black spruce trees responded positively to the increase in growing season temperatures and heat wave intensity, suggesting that growth is currently limited by suboptimal temperatures. While tree growth in the southern region generally benefited from warm spring temperatures, vulnerability to late spring frosts reduced tree growth in the northern region and increased probability of abrupt growth decline. In this region, late spring frosts offset approximately half of the additional growth that would otherwise occur over the course of a warm growing season. This vulnerability of northern trees may result from local adaptations to short growing seasons, which initiate biological activities at colder temperatures in the spring. Overall, our results highlight the need to explicitly incorporate acute climatic events into modeling efforts in order to refine our understanding of the impact of climate change on forest dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number613523
JournalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change
Volume3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 22 2020

Keywords

  • black spruce–lichen forests
  • climate warming
  • cold wave
  • frost injuries
  • growth-climate relationships
  • heat wave
  • Northern Quebec and Labrador
  • Nunavik

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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