Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2010, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (9): 1045-1057.doi: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2010.09.005

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Evaluation of temporal stability in tree growth-climate response in Wolong National Natural Reserve, western Sichuan, China

LI Zong-Shan1; LIU Guo-Hua1*; FU Bo-Jie1; ZHANG Qi-Bing2; HU Chan-Juan1; LUO Shu-Zheng1   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China; and
    2State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
  • Received:2010-03-25 Online:2010-10-08 Published:2010-09-01
  • Contact: LIU Guo-Hua E-mail:ghliu@rcees.ac.cn

Abstract: Aims It is generally assumed in dendroclimatological studies that the approximate relationship between tree growth and the limiting climatic factors is stable over time. However, observed spatial and temporal instabilities in growth-climate relationships suggest diverse growth responses expected to be triggered by unprecedented climatic changes in the future may greatly complicate dendroclimatic reconstructions of past climate histories. We test the stability of the growth-climate relationship using tree ring-width data of Abies faxoniana in Wolong National Natural Reserve of western Sichuan, China to provide qualitative verification for regional paleoclimatic studies and dynamic vegetation models for carbon uptake. Methods Standardized dendroecological methods were used to study the effects of climatic variability on radial growth of A. faxoniana, a subalpine conifer that was the dominant and economically most important tree species in this region. Fifty-two increment cores of A. faxoniana were sampled in a pristine forest site at 2 750 m and several statistics were used to identify common patterns of interannual growth variability. A shift in climate facilitated comparison of growth-climate relationships during two distinct periods: 1956–1976 and 1977–2008. Tree radial growth was correlated against monthly total precipitation, sunshine time and mean, minimum, and maximum temperature from the nearby meteorological station. Important findings Tree radial growth showed time-dependent relationships to interannual climate variation. For 1956–1976, tree growth showed a positive growth response to temperature in late winter to early spring (prior December to current April), whereas high temperature in late spring (May) negatively impacted tree growth. For 1977–2008, tree growth responded more strongly to sunshine time (positive) and winter temperature (negative). In addition, tree growth showed an internally consistent positive response to precipitation in autumn to early winter (prior September to December). An anomalous reduction in growth indices was a noteworthy feature in 1977–2008 and resulted in increasing divergence between the trends in ring width and temperature. In recent decades, the combination of decline in sunshine time and more cloud cover effectively decreased the amount of solar radiation available for photosynthesis and plant growth, and this was the most probable cause for the recent progressive decline in growth.

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