Positive response of tree productivity to warming is reversed by increased tree density at the arctic tundra–taiga ecotone

X. J. Walker, H. D. Alexander, L. T. Berner, M. A. Boyd, M. M. Loranty, S. M. Natali, M. C. Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The transition zone between the northern boreal forest and the Arctic tundra, known as the tundra–taiga ecotone (TTE) has undergone rapid warming in recent decades. In response to this warming, tree density, growth, and stand productivity are expected to increase. Increases in tree density have the potential to negate the positive impacts of warming on tree growth through a reduction in the active layer and an increase in competitive interactions. We assessed the effects of tree density on tree growth and climate–growth responses of Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi Mayr.) and on trends in the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in the TTE of Northeast Siberia. We examined 19 mature forest stands that all established after a fire in 1940 and ranged in tree density from 300 to 37 000 stems·ha1. High-density stands with shallow active layers had lower tree growth, higher stand productivity, and more negative growth responses to growing season temperatures compared with low-density stands with deep active layers. Variation in stand productivity across the density gradient was not captured by Landsat-derived NDVI, but NDVI did capture annual variations in stand productivity. Our results suggest that the expected increases in tree density following fires at the TTE may effectively limit tree growth and that NDVI is unlikely to capture increasing productivity associated with changes in tree density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1323-1338
Number of pages16
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021


  • Boreal
  • Climate change
  • Competition
  • Landsat
  • Larch
  • Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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