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Forest density intensifies the importance of snowpack to growth in water‐limited pine forests

Formally Refereed
Authors: Kelly E. Gleason, John B. Bradford, Anthony W. D'Amato, Shawn Fraver, Brian J. Palik, Michael A. Battaglia
Year: 2021
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Ecological Applications


Warming climate and resulting declines in seasonal snowpack have been associated with drought stress and tree mortality in seasonally snow-covered watersheds worldwide. Meanwhile, increasing forest density has further exacerbated drought stress due to intensified tree–tree competition. Using a uniquely detailed data set of population-level forest growth (n = 2,495 sampled trees), we examined how inter-annual variability in growth relates to snow volume across a range of forest densities (e.g., competitive environments) in sites spanning a broad aridity gradient across the United States. Forest growth was positively related to snowpack in water-limited forests located at low latitude, and this relationship was intensified by forest density. However, forest growth was negatively related to snowpack in a higher latitude more energy-limited forest, and this relationship did not interact with forest density. Future reductions in snowpack may have contrasting consequences, as growth may respond positively in energy-limited forests and negatively in water-limited forests; however, these declines may be mitigated by reducing stand density through forest thinning.


adaptive forest management, climate change resilience, energy-limited forests, forest density, forest growth, pine forests, snow, snow accumulation, snowpack, water-limited forests


Gleason, Kelly E.; Bradford, John B.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Fraver, Shawn; Palik, Brian J.; Battaglia, Michael A. 2021. Forest density intensifies the importance of snowpack to growth in water limited pine forests. Ecological Applications. 31(1): 1029. 12 p.