We compared annual basal area increment (BAI) at different spatial scales among all size classes and species at diverse locations in the wet western and dry northeastern Olympic Mountains. Weak growth correlations at small spatial scales (average R = 0.084-0.406) suggest that trees are responding to local growth conditions. However, significant positive growth correlations between geographically adjacent forest types (R = 0.440-0.852) and between watersheds (R = 0.430) indicate that there is a common overarching growth-limiting factor (e.g., climate) that affects tree growth over large areas. The Sitka spruce (Picea sirchensis (Bong.) Carrière) forest type is the most sensitive to environmental change with the highest mean sensitivity (0.345), the highest potential for annual growth change (mean BAI = 0.0047 m2), and the highest growth variability (coefficient of variation = 0.498). In addition, this forest type is most likely to exhibit extreme positive growth responses (4.2% of years have BAI values 2 standard deviations above the mean). Low-elevation coniferous forests are relatively sensitive to changes in growth-limiting factors (in contrast to the traditional view) and may play an important role in storing carbon in a warmer climate.
Holman, Melisa L.; Peterson, David L. 2006. Spatial and temporal variability in forest growth in the Olympic Mountains, Washington: sensitivity to climatic variability. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 36: 92-104