Skip to Main Content
Douglas-fir growth in mountain ecosystems: water limits tree growth from stand to regionAuthor(s): Jeremy S. Littell; David L. Peterson; Michael Tjoelker
Source: Ecological Monographs. 78(3): 349-368
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
PDF: Download Publication (4.8 MB)
DescriptionThe purpose of this work is to understand the nature of growth-climate relationships for Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) across the climatic dimensions of its niche. We used a combination of biophysically informed sampling (to identify sample sites) and dendroclimatology (to identify growth-climate relationships) along a climate gradient in Northwestern United States mountain ecosystems from the western Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to the eastern Rocky Mountain Front, Montana. We used a multiscale sampling strategy that accounted for continentality, physiography, and topography as nonclimatic factors that could influence climate and alter tree growth. We developed a network of 124 Douglas-fir tree-ring chronologies and explored growth-climate correlations across the sampled gradients. We considered two spatial scales of monthly and seasonal climate variables as potential controlling factors on tree growth. Annual radial growth in 60 to 65 percent of the plots across the region is significantly correlated with precipitation, drought, or water balance during the late summer prior to growth and the early summer the year of growth. In a few plots, growth is positively correlated with cool-season temperature or negatively correlated with snowpack. Water availability is therefore more commonly limiting to Douglas-fir growth than energy limitations on growing season length. The first principal component derived from the chronologies is significantly correlated with independent drought reconstructions. The sensitivity of Douglas-fir to summer water balance deficit (potential evapotranspiration minus actual evapotranspiration) indicates that increases in April to September temperature without increases in summer precipitation or soil moisture reserves are likely to cause decreases in growth over much of the sampled area, especially east of the Cascade crest. In contrast, Douglas-fir may exhibit growth increases at some higher elevation sites where seasonal photosynthesis is currently limited by growing-season length or low growing-season temperature. Life-history processes such as establishment, growth, and mortality are precursors to changes in biogeography, and measurements of climate effects on those processes can provide early indications of climate-change effects on ecosystems.
- You may send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
CitationLittell, Jeremy S.; Peterson, David L.; Tjoelker, Michael. 2008. Douglas-fir growth in mountain ecosystems: water limits tree growth from stand to region. Ecological Monographs. 78(3): 349-368
KeywordsClimate change, climate effects, dendrochronology, Douglas-fir, ecological amplitude, ecophysiology, limiting factors, niche, Pseudotsuga menziesii, tree growth, water balance deficit
- Fine-scale variability in growth-climate relationships of Douglas-fir, North Cascade Range, Washington.
- Genecology of Douglas fir in western Oregon and Washington.
- Tree growth and climate in the Pacific Northwest, North America: a broad-scale analysis of changing growth environments
XML: View XML