Varying boreal forest response to Arctic environmental change at the Firth River, Alaska

Laia Andreu-Hayles, Rosanne D'Arrigo, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Pieter S.A. Beck, David Frank, Scott Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The response of boreal forests to anthropogenic climate change remains uncertain, with potentially significant impacts for the global carbon cycle, albedo, canopy evapotranspiration and feedbacks into further climate change. Here, we focus on tree-ring data from the Firth River site at treeline in northeastern Alaska, in a tundra-forest transition region where pronounced warming has already occurred. Both tree-ring width (TRW) and maximum latewood density (MXD) chronologies were developed to identify the nature of tree growth and density responses to climatic and environmental changes in white spruce (Picea glauca), a dominant Arctic treeline species. Good agreement was found between the interannual fluctuations in the TRW chronology and summer temperatures from 1901 to 1950, whereas no significant relationships were found from 1951 to 2001, supporting evidence of significant divergence between TRW and summer temperature in the second half of the 20th century. In contrast to this unstable climatic response in the TRW record, the high frequency July-August temperature signal in the MXD series seems reasonably stable through the 20th century. Wider and denser rings were more frequent during the 20th century, particularly after 1950, than in previous centuries. Finally, comparison between the tree-ring proxies and a satellite-derived vegetation index suggests that TRW and MXD correlate with vegetation productivity at the landscape level at different times of the growing season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number045503
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alaska
  • Arctic
  • Picea glauca
  • divergence
  • global warming
  • growth
  • maximum latewood density (MXD)
  • normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)
  • remote sensing
  • seasonality
  • tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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