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Taxonomy, together with ontogeny and growing conditions, drives needleleaf species’ sensitivity to climate in boreal North America

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Currently, there is no consensus regarding the way that changes in climate will affect boreal forest growth, where warming is occurring faster than in other biomes. Some studies suggest negative effects due to drought‐induced stresses, while others provide evidence of increased growth rates due to a longer growing season. Studies focusing upon the effects of environmental conditions on growth‐climate relationships are usually limited to small sampling areas that do not encompass the full range of environmental conditions; therefore, they only provide a limited understanding of the processes at play. Here, we studied how environmental conditions and ontogeny modulated growth trends and growth‐climate relationships of black spruce (Picea mariana) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) using an extensive data set from a forest inventory network. We quantified the long‐term growth trends at the stand scale, based upon analysis of the absolutely‐dated ring‐width measurements of 2266 trees. We assessed the relationship between annual growth rates and seasonal climatic variables, and evaluated the effects of various explanatory variables on long‐term growth trends and growth‐climate relationships. Both growth trends and growth‐climate relationships were species‐specific and spatially heterogeneous. While the growth of jack pine barely increased during the study period, we observed a growth decline for black spruce which was more pronounced for older stands. This decline was likely due to a negative balance between direct growth gains induced by improved photosynthesis during hotter‐than‐average growing conditions in early summers and the loss of growth occurring the following year due to the indirect effects of late‐summer heatwaves on accumulation of carbon reserves. For stands at the high end of our elevational gradient, frost damage during milder‐than‐average springs could act as an additional growth stressor. Competition and soil conditions also modified climate sensitivity, which suggests that effects of climate change will be highly heterogeneous across the boreal biome. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 1
Taxonomy, together with ontogeny and growing conditions, drives needleleaf
1
species’ sensitivity to climate in boreal North America
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Running head: DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH
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Marchand, W.1, 2, Girardin, M.P. 1, 2, Hartmann, H.3, Gauthier, S.1, 2, Bergeron, Y.2
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1. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre,
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1055 du P.E.P.S, P.O. Box 10380, Stn. Sainte-Foy, Québec, QC, G1V 4C7,
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Canada
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2. Centre d’étude de la forêt, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, succ.
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Centre-ville, Montréal, QC, H3C 3P8, Canada; and Forest Research Institute,
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Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 445 boul. de l’Université,
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Rouyn Noranda , QC, Canada, J9X 5E4
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3. Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Department of Biogeochemical
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Processes, Hans-Knöll Str. 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
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Corresponding author: William Marchand. Email: william.marchand@uqat.ca;
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Tel.: (1) 418-809-4690
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Paper type: Primary research article
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 2
Abstract
18
Currently, there is no consensus regarding the way that changes in climate will affect boreal
19
forest growth, where warming is occurring faster than in other biomes. Some studies
20
suggest negative effects due to drought-induced stresses, while others provide evidence of
21
increased growth rates due to a longer growing season. Studies focusing upon the effects
22
of environmental conditions on growth-climate relationships are usually limited to small
23
sampling areas that do not encompass the full range of environmental conditions; therefore,
24
they only provide a limited understanding of the processes at play. Here, we studied how
25
environmental conditions and ontogeny modulated growth trends and growth-climate
26
relationships of black spruce (Picea mariana) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) using an
27
extensive data set from a forest inventory network. We quantified the long-term growth
28
trends at the stand scale, based upon analysis of the absolutely-dated ring-width
29
measurements of 2266 trees. We assessed the relationship between annual growth rates and
30
seasonal climatic variables, and evaluated the effects of various explanatory variables on
31
long-term growth trends and growth-climate relationships. Both growth trends and growth-
32
climate relationships were species-specific and spatially heterogeneous. While the growth
33
of jack pine barely increased during the study period, we observed a growth decline for
34
black spruce which was more pronounced for older stands. This decline was likely due to
35
a negative balance between direct growth gains induced by improved photosynthesis
36
during hotter-than-average growing conditions in early summers and the loss of growth
37
occurring the following year due to the indirect effects of late-summer heatwaves on
38
accumulation of carbon reserves. For stands at the high end of our elevational gradient,
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frost damage during milder-than-average springs could act as an additional growth stressor.
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 3
Competition and soil conditions also modified climate sensitivity, which suggests that
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effects of climate change will be highly heterogeneous across the boreal biome.
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Keywords: boreal forest, Canada, climate change, climate-induced stress, dendroecology,
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Quebec
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Graphical Abstract
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The figure displays the effects (red=negative, blue=positive) of explanatory variables on
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tree sensitivity to climate, and the resulting 1970-2005 growth trends. Old-growth boreal
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black spruce stands exhibited a more negative response to previous summer temperature,
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identified as the primary climatic driver of growth trajectories for this species. This finding
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suggests an exacerbated effect of heat-induced stresses, which resulted in more negative
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long-term growth trends for old-growth stands, especially when combined with late-frost
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damage. Other explanatory variables, such as regional climate, competition and soil
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conditions, modified tree sensitivity to climate.
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 4
1. INTRODUCTION
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The boreal biome is warming faster than other regions of the world (IPCC, 2013). As a
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result of a 35 % increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations relative to pre-industrial
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conditions, mean annual air temperature has risen by 0.5 to 3 °C in boreal North America
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and an additional increase of 4-5 °C is expected by 2100 (Price et al., 2013). Climate
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change threatens the ecological, social and economic services that boreal forests provide
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(Gauthier, Bernier, Kuuluvainen, Shvidenko, & Schepaschenko, 2015). It is also unclear
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whether boreal forests will continue to act as a carbon sink or will shift to become a carbon
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source (Kurz et al., 2013), thereby renewing the scientific focus on these ecosystems and
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on their ability to cope with, and to mitigate, global warming. As a proxy for tree vigour,
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secondary growth can be used to study the response of trees to a changing climate and,
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thus, to assess current and future trajectories of the boreal forest.
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In the Northern Hemisphere, evidence of increased mortality rates and decreases in tree
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growth and forest productivity is accumulating, not only for the interior of the boreal forest
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(Cahoon et al., 2018; Girardin et al., 2016; Hember, Kurz, & Coops, 2016; Zhu et al., 2016),
68
but also at its northern edge (D’Arrigo et al., 2004). These ‘negative’ trends were linked,
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amongst other factors, to heat and hydric stresses resulting from rising temperatures and
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more frequent, longer-lasting, and harsher drought episodes (Barber, Juday, & Finney,
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2000; Girardin et al., 2016; Juday & Alix, 2012; Nicklen et al., 2018; Trugman, Medvigy,
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Anderegg, & Pacala, 2018; Zhang et al., 2008). In contrast, other studies provided strong
73
evidence for increased growth rates and higher stand productivity (Beck et al., 2011;
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Girardin et al., 2011; Hember, Kurz, & Coops, 2017). These positive trends, which were
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observed mainly for the northernmost forested area, namely, the taiga, were likely due to
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 5
higher rates of carbon assimilation and a longer growing season (Gennaretti, Arseneault,
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Nicault, Perreault, & Bégin, 2014; Ju & Masek, 2016). These contrasting observations
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demonstrate uncertainties regarding the persistence of the existing structure, composition
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and function of the boreal biome under future warmer and dryer climatic conditions.
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Tree sensitivity to climate is highly variable across the globe and is modulated by
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environmental drivers that vary at local to global scales (Babst, Poulter, et al., 2012;
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Girardin et al., 2016). Amongst these drivers, topography creates spatially heterogeneous
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macroclimatic conditions and can modify the way that trees respond to changes in regional
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climate (Hasler, Geertsema, Foord, Gruber, & Noetzli, 2015; Matías, Linares, Sánchez-
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Miranda, & Jump, 2017). For example, in Central Europe, water-limited lowland forests
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are more sensitive to drought, whereas forests in the upland portion of the elevational
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gradient are primarily temperature-limited (Altman et al., 2017) and can benefit from
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stronger and faster warming, which is expected for mountainous areas (Pepin et al., 2015).
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More specifically, higher mean summer temperatures could improve the growth of trees at
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the high end of the elevational gradient by increasing the number of wood cells that are
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produced annually through improved xylogenetic processes and hydraulic performance
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(Castagneri, Petit, & Carrer, 2015; Dulamsuren, Hauck, Kopp, Ruff, & Leuschner, 2017).
93
In contrast, some studies have observed decreased growth rates, even for trees growing in
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mountainous sites in both central Europe and North America (Dittmar, Zech, & Elling,
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2003; McLaughlin, Downing, Blasing, Cook, & Adams, 1987; Piovesan, Biondi, Filippo,
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Alessandrini, & Maugeri, 2008), which questions the capacity of high-elevation forested
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ecosystems to better cope with climate change (Austin & Niel, 2011).
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 6
The annual growth performance of a tree is linked to its ability to access optimal
99
amounts of water, light and nutrients (Fritts, 1971), the availability of which is primarily
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controlled by site-specific abiotic factors, such as soil conditions (e.g., Hember et al.,
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2017). Soil structure, drainage and thickness of the organic layer determine soil water-
102
holding capacity (Minasny & McBratney, 2017) and drive nutrient cycling (e.g., Cavard,
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Bergeron, Paré, Nilsson, & Wardle, 2018). In addition to its direct effects on tree growth,
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soil moisture content alters microclimate and, thus, evapotranspiration rates, which may
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modulate growth-climate relationships (Manrique-Alba et al., 2017). By modifying
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resource availability, inter-individual competition can exacerbate tree sensitivity to harsh
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climatic conditions (e.g. Buechling, Martin, & Canham, 2017; Ford et al., 2016; Gleason
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et al., 2017; Jiang et al., 2018; Nicklen et al., 2018), or buffer growth gains from favourable
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periods (Cortini, Comeau, & Bokalo, 2012). Ultimately, the capacity of a tree to efficiently
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use resources will also dictate its response to climate (e.g., Carrer & Urbinati, 2004). Apart
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from genotype-driven differences, ontogeny-related changes in a tree’s physiological needs
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and in the efficiency of its hydraulic network (Ryan, Phillips, & Bond, 2006) can modify
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its sensitivity to climate (e.g., Altman et al., 2017).
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The high spatial variability in growing conditions that is encountered in boreal forests,
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together with the multiplicity of interacting effects and feedbacks of environmental
116
variables that are present, hinder our understanding of the response of boreal forest trees to
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climate. In regions with geographically limited and sparsely replicated sample networks
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(Gewehr, Drobyshev, Berninger, & Bergeron, 2014), assessing climate effects on tree
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growth is very difficult (but see Girardin et al., 2016), given that field-based measurements
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do not cover the full range of variation in growing conditions. Some studies in western
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 7
boreal North America and boreal Europe have examined variations in growth-climate
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relationships along latitudinal and longitudinal gradients (Lloyd, Bunn, & Berner, 2011) or
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between sites with different slope orientations (i.e. north vs south facing sites; Johnstone,
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McIntire, Pedersen, King, & Pisaric, 2010; Walker & Johnstone, 2014) and moisture
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conditions (Walker & Johnstone, 2014; Wilmking & Myers-Smith, 2008). However,
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studies testing the effect of elevation gradient on the trees sensitivity to climate are lacking,
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particularly in the eastern boreal North America. Furthermore, most past studies have
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focused upon the direct effects of abiotic or biotic factors on tree growth, while the
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feedback effects of environmental conditions on growth-climate relationships are still
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rarely decribed (But see Nicklen et al., 2018; and Nicklen, Roland, Ruess, Schmidt, &
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Lloyd, 2016 for the Pacific Coast of North America).
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Here, we used an extensive and well-replicated provincial inventory network that
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provides absolutely dated and annually resolved tree-growth data, as well as site-specific
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environmental information for unmanaged forests in eastern boreal North America. This
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network is located at the boundary between the interior boreal forest and the taiga, and
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includes sample plots characterized by highly contrasting growing conditions. Our overall
137
objective was to examine whether the potential impacts of recent changes in climate varied
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as functions of explanatory variables with respect to the growth of two needleleaf species
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that are broadly distributed across North America, black spruce (Picea mariana (Miller)
140
B.S.P.) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lambert). We first quantified the recent growth
141
trends for the two species which, given the high variability in growing conditions, were
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expected to be heterogeneous across the study zone. Then, we determined the climate
143
sensitivity of the two species, i.e., the relationship between inter-annual variation of
144
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 8
secondary growth rates and fluctuations in seasonal values of mean temperature and total
145
precipitation over the period 1970-2005. We hypothesized that the growth of both species
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would be negatively impacted by higher-than-average temperature during summer and
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positively affected by higher-than-average temperature during spring and by higher-than-
148
average precipitation during summer. Finally, we assessed how explanatory variables (e.g.
149
climate, competition and soil conditions) affected spatial variability in growth-climate
150
relationships. We hypothesized that the negative effect of hotter- and dryer-than-average
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summers, as well as the positive effect of high spring temperature on tree growth, would
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be exacerbated in stands in the upper portion of the elevational gradient. We also
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hypothesised that old stands, as well as trees growing in a highly competitive environment
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and in well-drained sites, would respond more negatively to summer heatwaves.
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2. MATERIALS AND METHODS
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2.1 Sampling area
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Our sampling network covered three degrees of latitude (50.25-53.25°N) and nearly
158
extended across the entire Province of Quebec (Canada) from east to west (57.5-78.25°W).
159
It was located in the boreal biome, which is characterised by needleleaf-dominated forests
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(Robitaille, Saucier, Chabot, Côté, & Boudreault, 2015). Some regional patterns of climatic
161
conditions, dominant vegetation and natural disturbance regimes make it possible to divide
162
this wide biome into bioclimatic domains (Ansseau et al., 1997). In the north portion of the
163
region, the spruce-lichen bioclimatic domain is characterised by a harsh, cold and dry
164
climate, resulting in an open black spruce-dominated forest with a lichen mat, i.e., the taiga
165
vegetation subzone. South of the 52nd parallel, continuous boreal forest that is composed
166
mostly of pure black spruce stands covers the spruce-moss bioclimatic domain. The latter
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 9
is subdivided into western and eastern zones based on precipitation patterns and fire cycles.
168
The western part is drier and, consequently, more prone to wildfire than the eastern zone
169
(Gouvernement du Québec, 2003). Within these three main bioclimatic domains, hereafter
170
referred to as Boreal West, Boreal East and Taiga (Figure 1), lower-level landscape
171
units are defined based upon the recurrent arrangements of the main permanent ecological
172
and vegetation features (48 landscape units are present in our sampling area), which in turn
173
are divided into ecological districts (284 ecological districts within our sampling area) that
174
are based upon their geological and physiographic features (Ansseau et al., 1997). Please
175
refer to the Figure 1 (B) for examples of geographical units mentioned throughout the
176
paper.
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 10
FIGURE 1 (A) Forest inventory plot network. The pink squares and blue triangles
178
represent black spruce and jack pine temporary sample plots, respectively. The three main
179
bioclimatic domains encompassing the sample network are also delineated. The
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background colour gradient represents the elevation gradient. (B) Geographical units
181
involved in statistical analyses, from the broader global scale of the province of Quebec to
182
the finer scale of the sample plot.
183
2.2 Tree-ring material
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 11
The data that we used for this study were acquired from a sampling program of 400-m2
185
randomly distributed temporary circular sample plots (n = 875 plots), which was
186
established by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec (MRNFQ)
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from 2005 to 2009 (Programme d’inventaire écoforestier nordique; Létourneau et al.,
188
2008). In each sample plot, the diameter at breast height (DBH, 1.3 m) of all living and
189
dead stems (DBH > 9 cm) was measured and environmental and stand-level conditions
190
were recorded. Disks were collected for stem analysis from one to three dominant or co-
191
dominant trees per species according to the provincial normative sampling protocol
192
(Ministère des Ressources Naturelles du Québec, 2008). We used only black spruce and
193
jack pine data since these species represented most (76 % and 15 %, respectively) of the
194
sampled trees. We selected 1-m-height stem-disks as a trade-off between basal ring
195
distortion and the number of visible rings (DesRochers & Gagnon, 1997). A total of 1914
196
black spruce and 352 jack pine disks with each having a minimum of 20 visible rings,
197
representing 812 sample plots, were retained for subsequent analyses. Sample disks were
198
processed using standard dendrochronological procedures for acquisition of ring-width
199
measurement series across four radii per disk (Ministère des Ressources Naturelles du
200
Québec, 2008). For each ring-width series, cross-dating and measurements were
201
statistically verified using the program COFECHA (Holmes, 1983). No major anomaly in
202
these tree-ring measurements was observed, and therefore all were retained for subsequent
203
analyses.
204
2.3 Climate data and explanatory variables
205
For each plot, daily maximum and minimum temperatures (°C) and total precipitation
206
(mm) were obtained for the period of 1970-2005 using thin plate spline smoothing
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DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 12
algorithms (ANUSPLIN), which interpolate site-specific estimates at a 0.08° x 0.08°
208
spatial resolution from historical weather observations, as described in Price et al. (2011).
209
Mean temperatures, which were computed as the average of monthly maximum and
210
minimum temperature values, were averaged and precipitation was summed at a seasonal
211
scale (meteorological seasons according to Trenberth, 1983: spring = March-May, summer
212
= June-August, autumn = September-November, winter = December-February). Readers
213
should refer to Supporting Information S1 for an overview of the trends in seasonal climate
214
in the study area.
215
Stand and environmental conditions were acquired from the plot survey conducted
216
by the Ministère de la Faune, des Forêts et des Parcs du Québec (Table 1, MFFPQ;
217
Robitaille et al., 2015). We considered the proportion of clay, sand and silt in the mineral
218
soil, organic layer thickness (OLT) and hydrological conditions of the sample plot assessed
219
as drainage classes. Elevation and slope were extracted for our sample plots from the
220
SRTM 90m Digital Elevation Database v4.1 (Jarvis, Reuter, Nelson, & Guevara, 2008).
221
For stand-level demographic features, stand age was defined as the age of the oldest
222
sampled tree in the plot. Stand basal area (BA) was computed as the sum of basal areas of
223
all trees with DBH > 9 cm within the plot, on a per-hectare basis. A tree-level competition
224
index (CI) was computed as the number of trees that were taller than the focal tree, divided
225
by the total number of trees within the plot, to assess assymetric competition (Ford et al.,
226
2016), following Weber et al. (2008). To do so, the height of all trees within a plot was
227
estimated from DBH using the allometric equations of Fortin et al. (2009). Individual CI
228
values were averaged at the plot level to ensure consistency with the working scale of the
229
growth-climate analyses. Temperature and precipitation normals were computed for the
230
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 13
1970-2005 period to account for the west-to-east (continental-to-oceanic) climate gradient.
231
For brevity’s sake, these plot-level characteristics will be refered hereafter to as
232
explanatory variables.
233
TABLE 1 Plot-level statistics for the studied explanatory variables, by bioclimatic domain
234
Boreal West
Boreal East
Taiga
mean
range (min | max)
mean
sd
range (min | max)
mean
sd
range (min | max)
Clay (%)
6.69
0 | 79
4.76
2.86
0 | 18
4.96
6.34
0 | 47.9
Sand (%)
63.51
0 | 99.5
66.77
24.13
0 | 99.5
68.55
23.94
0 | 96.5
Silt (%)
12.11
0 | 52
18.75
11.31
0 | 53.9
17.93
12.29
0 | 72
OLT (cm)
21.23
1 | > 100
18.49
17.35
0 | > 100
15.93
19.66
0 | > 100
Drainage
(unitless)
3 (median
class)
1 | 6
3 (median
class)
-
1 | 6
3 (median
class)
-
1 | 6
Elevation (m
a.s.l.)
320.22
96 | 637
549.55
167.39
100 | 860
522.59
171.4
113 | 912
Slope (degree)
2.28
0.13 | 13.15
3.55
3.33
0.13 | 19.58
2.32
2.29
0.13 | 12.36
Age (years)
105.23
28 | 294
163.69
65.81
28 | 331
145.59
63.68
30 | 309
BA (m2 ha-1)
15.89
0.78 | 49.88
17.27
10.21
0.90 | 55.39
10.57
6.60
0.59 | 35.44
CI (unitless)
0.77
0.07 | 1.00
0.79
0.16
0.02 | 0.98
0.69
0.21
0.07 | 1
Prec. (mm)
807.11
685.56 | 927.26
956.09
106.87
775.83 | 1174.67
803.74
75.3
668.60 |955.34
Temp. (°C)
-1.71
-3.07 | -0.31
-2.21
1.28
-4.02 | 0.49
-2.28
1.03
-4.35 | -0.93
Note: Clay = percentage of clay within the soil; Sand = percentage of sand within the soil; Silt = percentage of silt within the soil; OLT = organic layer thickness;
Drainage = drainage classes: from 1: rapid drainage to 6: poor drainage ; Elevation = altitudinal gradient; Slope = terrain’s slope, in degrees; Age = stand age (age
of the oldest tree in a plot, computed as the number of years between the calendar year of the oldest ring and the calendar year of the most recent ring recorded for
a tree); BA = basal area; CI = competition index; Prec. = average annual precipitation over the 1970-2005 period; Temp. = average mean annual temperature over
the 1970-2005 period.
235
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 14
2.4 Statistical procedures
236
To test our working hypotheses, we applied a 3-step statistical procedure involving
237
different spatio-temporal scales (see workflow diagram in Supporting Information S2).
238
Step 1 : Trend analysis
239
Ring-width measurements of the four radii were averaged (arithmetic mean statistics, see
240
Supporting Information S3 for descriptive statistics of the raw series), and the mean ring-
241
width series were converted into basal area increments (

) using the
242
function bai.out in the R-package dplr (Bunn, 2008). We assumed the cross-sections were
243
perfectly circular in shape, and used these as a proxy for secondary growth to provide an
244
accurate quantification of wood production with ever-increasing tree diameter (Biondi &
245
Qeadan, 2008). Rings that were formed during the first 10 years were then eliminated,
246
given that they usually exhibit an atypical response to environmental drivers compared
247
with more mature rings (Loader, McCarroll, Gagen, Robertson, & Jalkanen, 2007). Next,
248
BAI were detrended using Generalised Additive Mixed Models (GAMM) to remove the
249
remaining ontogeny-induced (i.e., tree age and size) trends. One model was constructed for
250
each species and ecological district (See Supporting Information S4 for information about
251
the BAI chronologies and diagnostic plots of the GAMM models). Organic layer thickness
252
was added as a fixed term to account for the spatially-heterogeneous and mostly time-
253
independent effect of site quality on tree growth (Lavoie, Harper, Paré, & Bergeron, 2007).
254
BAI values were log-transformed to improve the normality of their distributions. The
255
structure of the GAMM model is as follows:
256
     
257
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 15
where i represents the individual tree, j represents the species, k represents the plot, l
258
represents the ecological district, and t represents the year. BAI is the basal area increment
259
of tree i at specific year t, BA is the basal area of tree i at specific year t (computed as the
260
sum of BAI of previous years), OLT is the organic layer thickness of plot k, and AgeC is
261
the cambial age (1-m height ring count) of tree i at year t. An autoregressive term, AR1
262
(autoregressive order p = 1, moving average order q = 0), was added to account for temporal
263
autocorrelation. We tested the significance of a nested random effect (tree nested in plot)
264
by conducting ANOVAs and likelihood ratio tests. Because it did not improve the model’s
265
fit and led to the same results (data not shown), we discarded the random term of the plot
266
from the final model and kept only the random effect of the tree (TreeID).
267
Annual Growth Changes (GC), which were expressed as the percent deviation from
268
predicted values of the GAMM model, were then computed following Girardin et al.
269
(2016). GC values were aggregated by year, plot and species using the median statistics for
270
computation of GCmedian chronologies (robust statistics; Huber, 2005). Because, for several
271
trees, the 2005 growth-ring was the last whole growth-ring, the upper temporal limit of the
272
analyses was fixed to 2005 to ensure consistency between chronologies. From the GCmedian
273
chronologies, growth trends were examined over two time periods: 1950-2005 and 1970-
274
2005. These periods were marked by significant increases in mean annual temperatures of
275
the area (Price et al., 2013) and characterized by the highest number of tree rings per
276
calendar year (i.e. the highest sample depth, see Supporting Information S3.2). Linear
277
regressions were applied (GCmedian ~ year), and the estimated regression slope was used as
278
a proxy for the long-term growth trend. Trend significance was assessed following the
279
statistical procedure described by Yue et al. (2004). This method corrects the p-value of
280
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 16
the non-parametric Mann-Kendall trend test with the effective sample size of the time
281
series to reduce the influence of serial correlation (function mkTrend in the R-package
282
fume; Santander Meteorology Group, 2012). Even if there were trend reversals for a few
283
plots (Figure 2), the 1970-2005 and 1950-2005 trends were globally highly correlated (see
284
Supporting Information S5.1). For the purposes of comparison, 1970-2005 GAMM-based
285
trends were compared with trends that were estimated from the application of two other
286
commonly used detrending methods, namely modified negative exponential models and
287
regional curve standardisation (See Supporting Information S5.2).
288
Step 2 : Growth-climate relationships
289
Since weather station data availability and, therefore, climate data accuracy, is better for
290
the most recent time periods (Ols, Girardin, Hofgaard, Bergeron, & Drobyshev, 2017), we
291
decided to retain data from the shorter and most recent period, i.e., 1970-2005, for climate-
292
growth analyses. Linear mixed models were fitted by plot and species, which included
293
residuals of GAMM-detrended BAI as response variables, together with the set of
294
seasonally aggregated climatic variables as fixed terms, and tree identity as a random term.
295
Mean seasonal temperature and total precipitation of the year of ring formation were
296
considered as explanatory variables. Since trees can allocate carbohydrates that were
297
acquired in the previous growing season to the biomass production of the year of ring
298
formation (Granda & Camarero, 2017), climate data from summer and autumn of the
299
previous year were also considered as fixed terms, leading to a total of ten climatic
300
variables (please refer to the Supporting Information S6.1 for the list of climate variables
301
used in linear mixed models). The structure of the global model is as follows:
302
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 17
     


303
where i represents the tree, j represents the species, k represents the plot and t represents
304
the year. (TreeID) is a random term that accounts for the variability between individual
305
trees. An error term with an AR1 (p = 1, q = 0) correlation structure was added to the model
306
which accounts for the serial correlation. Collinearity amongst climatic variables was low,
307
with the mean of pairwise Pearson correlations between variables below a stringent
308
threshold value of 0.4 (Supporting Information S6.1; maximum value of |0.37|; Dormann
309
et al., 2013). Multi-model selection based upon the Akaike information criterion corrected
310
for small sample size (AICc), was performed for this global model using the package
311
MuMIn (Bartoń, 2018). A 95% confidence set of models was selected for multi-model
312
inference as models whose cumulative Akaike weight is below 0.95 (Burnham &
313
Anderson, 2002). Readers can consult Supporting Information S6.3 for AICc values of all
314
of the 1024 evaluated models, along with Akaike weights of the best model and the number
315
of models used for multi-model inferences. Weighted averages of parameter estimates were
316
derived from this set of best approximating models, and Student’s t-statistics were
317
computed as the ratio between the average model estimate and its corresponding standard
318
error. These statistics provide both the general direction of the growth-climate relationship
319
(i.e., negative or positive slope), and the strength of this relationship (the farther from zero
320
the t-value is, the stronger is the effect), weighted by the model’s predictive capacity and
321
based upon the selected climatic variables. The 95 % adjusted confidence intervals of the
322
t-statistics were also computed, together with Pearson correlations between residuals from
323
the GAMM models and predicted values from the climate models (Supporting Information
324
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 18
S6.2) as an additional means of assessing the model’s predictive capacity. Results of
325
growth-climate analyses that were based upon residuals from the two additional detrending
326
methods are provided in Supporting Information S7.
327
Slopes from the linear regressions and t-statistics from the climate-growth mixed
328
models were interpolated across the whole area using the Empirical Bayesian Kriging
329
algorithm of the Geostatistical Analyst tool in ArcGIS v.10.4 (input options: empirical
330
transformation of the data, semi-variogram model = exponential-type, search radius = 1°,
331
smoothing factor = 0.2). The output raster maps permitted visual examination of
332
geographical patterns in long-term growth trends and climate sensitivity.
333
Step 3 : Link with explanatory variables
334
The relationships between explanatory variables (listed in Table 1) and tree sensitivity to
335
climate were assessed by conducting redundancy analyses (RDA) using Canoco software
336
v.4.5 (ter Braak & Smilauer, 2009). Because tree sensitivity to climate and environmental
337
conditions are highly variable from east to west (see Figure 4 and Table 1), site conditions
338
might affect growth-climate relationships depending upon the location of the plot (Wu et
339
al., 2018). If averaged over the whole gradient, the effect of these conditions could cancel
340
each other out. Consequently, one RDA was conducted per bioclimatic domain as a trade-
341
off between data aggregation and ecological relevance, as recommended by Ols et al.
342
(2018). The t-statistics from the climate mixed models were considered as response
343
variables (i.e., the “species” data matrix) and explanatory variables were considered as
344
independent variables (i.e., the “environment” matrix). Climate normals were also included
345
as independent variables, together with a dummy variable accounting for the species
346
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 19
identity of the sampled tree, i.e., the difference in sensitivity to climate between jack pine
347
(the reference level) and black spruce. Please refer to Supporting Information S8.3 for the
348
list of independent variables considered in RDA analyses. Latitude, longitude and the
349
average distance to the four nearest weather stations (ranging from 3.8 km to 153.1 km, see
350
Supporting Information S8.1) were added as conditioning variables to remove the effects
351
of spatial non-independence of the plots and the potential lack of accuracy in the climate
352
data set prior to analysis. Independent variables were transformed to improve the normality
353
of their distributions, and then standardised prior to analysis (R package rcompanion;
354
Mangiafico, 2017; Tukey’s ladder of powers; Tukey, 1977). Forward selection of
355
independent variables was done using Monte-Carlo permutation tests (n = 9999
356
permutations under the reduced model; α = 0.05). Growth trends were included passively
357
in the RDA in order to examine these in context with climate-environmental relationships
358
(such supplementary ‘passive’ variables do not influence the ordination). To summarise
359
the information that was displayed by the ordination plots (Supporting Information S8.2),
360
modified t-tests accounting for spatial autocorrelation were conducted between each of the
361
RDA-selected independent variables and response variables (i.e., tree sensitivity to
362
climate). The function modified.ttest of the R package SpatialPack was used (Osorio,
363
Vallejos, Cuevas, & Mancilla, 2018); α = 0.05).
364
Significant variables were grouped into six sets according to the ecological process they
365
represent: stand maturity, competition, altitudinal gradient, soil conditions, regional
366
climate, and species identity (also see Supporting Information S8.3). Variation partitioning
367
was then conducted to identify common and unique contributions to the total percentage
368
of variation in the matrix of response variables (adjusted R2) explained by the model and
369
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 20
better address the question of relative influences of the six sets of independent variables
370
that were considered in the model (Peres-Neto, Legendre, Dray, & Borcard, 2006). The
371
forward selection procedure used in the RDA led to up to five sets of independent variables
372
by bioclimatic domain. The variation partitioning algorithm (varpart) in the R-package
373
vegan was used (9999 permutations, partitions computed from adjusted R2; Oksanen et al.,
374
2018), which only allows a maximum of four sets of independent variables to be considered
375
in a same analysis. To overcome this limitation, we determined the unique and common
376
contributions of stand maturity, competition, altitudinal gradient, soil conditions and
377
regional climate. Next, we determined the contribution of the taxonomic identity of the tree
378
(selected in each of the three bioclimatic domains) by comparing it to the contribution of
379
all other independent variables grouped together. The dummy species variable in RDAs
380
allowed the quantification of the variability in growth-climate relationships resulting from
381
the difference between the two species without splitting the data by species, which would
382
have lowered the number of sample plot by analysis and consequently the statistical power,
383
i.e. the likelihood to correctly reject the null hypothesis. Analyses by species were also
384
tested and results of these analyses are provided as Supporting Information S8.4.
385
3. RESULTS
386
3.1 Growth trends are spatially heterogeneous and species-specific
387
When averaged over the sample plots, dissimilar long-term growth trends appeared
388
between species (Supporting Information S9). Growth rates of black spruce decreased, with
389
a trend estimated at -0.35 % y-1 ± (std) 1.61 % y-1 from 1950 to 2005. For the 1970-2005
390
period, the trend in the annual growth rate was -0.14 % y-1 ± 2.44 % y-1. For jack pine, both
391
the 1950-2005 and 1970-2005 periods were characterised by an annual increase in growth
392
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 21
of 0.21 % y-1 ± 3.31 % y-1 and 0.21 % y-1 ± 3.37 % y-1, respectively. However, species-
393
specific growth trajectories were not homogeneous across the study region (Figures 2 and
394
3; Supporting Information S9). Growth of black spruce increased in the western part of the
395
Boreal West and in the central part of the Boreal East between 1970 and 2005, but
396
decreased elsewhere (Figure 2). Growth of jack pine increased regardless of bioclimatic
397
domain between 1950 and 2005, but decreased in the western parts of Boreal West and
398
Taiga between 1970 and 2005 (Figures 2 and 3).
399
FIGURE 2 (A) Growth trends for black spruce and jack pine, for the 1950-2005 and 1970-
400
2005 periods, shown as slope coefficients of the plot-scaled regression models of detrended
401
BAI values against calendar years. Empirical Bayesian kriging was applied to interpolate
402
plot-based trends across the entire area. Dots highlight significant trends = 0.1). The
403
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 22
proportion of significant trends is shown at the bottom of each map. (B) Distributions of
404
growth trend slopes by species and bioclimatic domain (boxplots). Black dots represent the
405
mean value for the specific species and bioclimatic domain. Black lines inside the boxplots
406
are median values, and error bars represent the lower and upper whiskers (representing the
407
variability outside the upper and lower quartiles). The dotted line represents a value of zero,
408
i.e., no trend in long-term growth.
409
FIGURE 3 Median chronologies (red curves) of black spruce (left panels) and jack pine
410
(right panels) detrended BAI (growth change) per bioclimatic domain (upper row: Boreal
411
West; middle row: Boreal East; lower row: Taiga). Yellow shading and dotted lines delimit
412
the bootstrapped 95 % confidence intervals, with LOESS smoothing shown by the blue
413
lines (span = 0.2). Violet box and blue shading highlight the two time intervals (1950-2005
414
and 1970-2005, respectively). Black dashed lines denote a zero effect, i.e., no deviation
415
compared to the value predicted by the GAMM model.
416
3.2 Sensitivity to climate is dissimilar across the landscape
417
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 23
Growthclimate response patterns were estimated for the two tree species to identify the
418
key climate factors that were driving observed variability in growth (Figure 4). Summer
419
temperature of the year preceding growth and spring precipitation in the year of growth
420
had significant negative relationships with black spruce growth, while winter precipitation
421
and winter temperature had a positive influence. The importance of these variables was not
422
limited to particular regions but extended across vast areas (Figure 5). Black spruce tree
423
sensitivity to other climate variables was more spatially heterogeneous (Figures 4 and 5).
424
A high level of precipitation during previous-year summers had a significant positive effect
425
upon the growth of black spruce within the Boreal East and Boreal West; this effect was
426
not statistically significant in the Taiga (Figure 4). Excess-heat and high precipitation
427
during previous-year autumns negatively affected spruce growth in the Boreal West and
428
Taiga but had no significant effect in the Boreal East. Within the Boreal East and Taiga,
429
the growth of black spruce was increased by hotter-than-average summers occurring during
430
the year of ring formation and was decreased by milder-than-average springs. These
431
relationships were mostly the opposite of what was observed within the Boreal West.
432
The response of jack pine to climate was less statistically significant and often
433
opposite to that of black spruce. Regardless of bioclimatic domain, jack pine growth was
434
increased by previous-year warm autumns and current-year summer warmth, but it was
435
decreased by high winter precipitation (Figures 4 and 5). Current- and previous-year wet
436
summers significantly increased the growth of jack pine within the Boreal East and Boreal
437
West (Figure 4). Jack pine growth was positively correlated with mild and wet springs
438
within the Taiga and with mild winters within the Boreal West, but was negatively
439
impacted by wet springs within the Boreal East (Figure 4).
440
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 24
FIGURE 4 Arithmetic means (black dots) and bootstrapped 95 % confidence intervals
441
(rectangles, R=10000 replications) of t-statistic values per bioclimatic domain for black
442
spruce and jack pine, for each of the seasonal climatic variables. “T” and “P” at the
443
beginning of a variable’s name denote temperature and precipitation, respectively.
444
Uppercase letters denote climatic variables for the current growing season (winter, spring,
445
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 25
summer), and lowercase letters denote climatic variables of the previous growing season
446
(previous summer, previous autumn). Blue and red rectangles indicate a significant (95 %
447
confidence interval excluding zeroes) positive and negative effect, respectively, of the
448
climatic variable at the scale of the bioclimatic domain, and grey rectangles are for non-
449
significant values.
450
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 26
451
452
453
454
455
456
457
458
459
FIGURE 5 Kriging-interpolated growth response significance (based on t-statistics, 1970-2005) to seasonal climatic variable (left:
460
temperature, right: precipitation) for black spruce (left panel) and jack pine (right panel). Green-to-blue colours denote a negative effect
461
of the climate variable on tree growth, yellow colour means no impact of the climate variable on tree growth, and orange-to-red colours
462
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 27
denote a positive effect. Dots display significant values, i.e., plots for which the 95 % confidence interval of the t-statistics excludes
463
zero.
464
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 28
3.3 Plot-level features had low but significant effects on growth-climate relationships
465
Sensitivity to climate differed between the two species, especially within the Boreal West,
466
where species identity of the sampled trees alone accounted for 15 % of variation in
467
growth-climate relationships (Figure 6). Such taxononomic variability in growth sensitivity
468
to climate can be readily noted in Figures 4 and 5. Contributions of the sets of explanatory
469
variables stand maturity, competition, altitudinal gradient, soil conditions, and regional
470
climate to the climate sensitivity variance were much lower. The elevational gradient
471
explained the highest proportion of variation in tree response to climate within the Boreal
472
East and Taiga (5 % and 9 %, respectively; Figure 6). Stand maturity, alone or in
473
combination with other explanatory variables, accounted for 7 %, 1 % and 5 % of the
474
variation in growth-climate relationships within the Boreal West, Boreal East and Taiga,
475
respectively. For competition, these values were respectively 3 %, 2 % and 2 %.
476
Stands that were composed mainly of old black spruce trees exhibited growth that
477
was more negatively correlated with previous-year summer and autumn temperatures, but
478
more positively correlated with winter precipitation compared to recently regenerated
479
stands (Figures 6 and 7, and Supporting Information S10.1). These old-grown black spruce
480
stands also exhibited the steepest declines in growth rates during 1970-2005 (Supporting
481
Information S11). The positive effect of warmer-than-average autumns, winter and springs
482
on the growth of jack pine was lower for stands that were composed of old trees in
483
comparison with more recently regenerated stands (Supporting Information S8.4). Snowy
484
and mild winters increased the growth of black spruce more than that of jack pine, but
485
black spruce growth was more negatively correlated with wet and warm springs and with
486
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 29
excess-heat during autumns of the previous years than that of jack pine. Previous-year wet
487
summers and current-year mild springs decreased the growth of stands in the upper portion
488
of the elevational gradient (i.e., above 500 m a.s.l.), while excessively high temperatures
489
during current-year summers increased their growth more strongly than for stands at lower
490
elevations (Figures 6 and 7, and Supporting Information S10.1 and S10.2). Similarly,
491
growth in stands that were composed of taller trees (higher CI) was more negatively
492
affected by excess-heat during previous-year summers than those stands that were
493
composed of smaller-sized trees. Tree growth in more densely populated stands (higher
494
BA) was also more positively correlated with winter temperature, but less positively
495
correlated (within Boreal East and Taiga) or more negatively correlated (within Boreal
496
West) with current-year summer precipitation than stands of lower densities (Figures 6 and
497
7 and Supporting Information S9.1).
498
The effect of other explanatory variables on tree sensitivity to climate was restricted
499
to a specific region, such as soil conditions within the Boreal West and the continental-to-
500
oceanic climate gradient within the Boreal East, which accounted for 3 % and 5 % of the
501
variation in growth-climate relationships, respectively (Figure 6).
502
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 30
FIGURE 6 Left: The sets of independent variables used in variation partitioning (Please
503
refer to Table 1 for variable ranges). Middle: Effect of each explanatory variable on tree
504
sensitivity to climate, based on autocorrelation-corrected Pearson correlations. The
505
relationship between long-term growth trends and climatic variables is also shown
506
(uppercase letters: current year; lowercase letters: previous year). Red and blue shadings
507
are for negative and positive relationships, respectively, that are significant at α = 0.05.
508
Gray shadings denote non-significant relationships. Significant relationships common to at
509
least two bioclimatic domains are emphasised with a dot. Right: Proportion of variance
510
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 31
explained by each set of independent variables, alone or in combination with other sets
511
(Venn diagrams), by bioclimatic domain. The proportion of variance explained only by the
512
species (pine or spruce) and the proportion of variance unexplained by the selected
513
variables are shown below the diagrams.
514
515
FIGURE 7 Effect of topographic position on sensitivity to (A) spring temperature, (B)
516
summer temperature, (C) previous sumer precipitation, and (D) effect of the age of the
517
stand on the sensitivity to previous summer temperature. Blue and orange dots are observed
518
values for jack pine and black spruce, respectively. Also shown are the Spearman’s rho
519
coefficient (r) and p-value of the modified t-test corrected for the effect of spatial
520
correlation.
521
4. DISCUSSION
522
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 32
Using a dendroecological dataset from a randomly distributed forest inventory network
523
that consisted of 812 plots and 2266 trees, we provided an overview of the response of two
524
major boreal needleleaf species to recent climate change, across explanatory variables that
525
include stand maturity, competition, elevational gradient, soil conditions, and regional
526
climate within eastern boreal North America. Our results highlighted spatial heterogeneity
527
in long-term growth trends across the studied forest: in some areas growth rates decreased,
528
while in others growth increased over the last few decades. Tree sensitivity to climate was
529
also highly spatially heterogeneous. Our study underscores the utility of employing broadly
530
distributed datasets for assessing the complexity of climate change effects on a forest
531
ecosystem (Klesse et al., 2018; Nicklen et al., 2018).
532
The species identity of the tree explained a greater proportion of variation in
533
growth-climate relationships than did all other explanatory variables in the Boreal West.
534
Further, we observed contrasting growth trends between the two species. Our analyses
535
suggest that sensitivity to climate is determined primarily by a species-specific set of
536
functional traits. Black spruce and jack pine usually occupy sites with different soil
537
structures (Balland, Bhatti, Errington, Castonguay, & Arp, 2006) and have very different
538
root system architectures and physiological efficiencies (Blake & Li, 2003; Strong & La
539
Roi, 1983), which could explain differences in climate sensitivity.
540
We identified previous-year summer temperature and, to a lesser extent, previous-
541
autumn temperature as two of the climatic factors with the greatest negative effects on
542
annual growth rates of black spruce trees. Excess-heat during late summer and autumn may
543
lead to declines in carbohydrate reserve accumulation at the end of the growing season,
544
thereby negatively affecting spring growth, as was previously observed in both boreal
545
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 33
North America and northern Europe (Girardin et al., 2016; Ols et al., 2018). Decreased
546
reserve formation of heat-stressed trees can result from accelerated respiration, which leads
547
to higher and more rapid use of photosynthates that otherwise would be available for
548
storage (Anderegg & Anderegg, 2013; Granda & Camarero, 2017; Sala, Woodruff, &
549
Meinzer, 2012). The steepest declines in observed growth for individuals that were the
550
most greatly affected by above-average temperature during summer of the year prior to
551
ring formation suggest that hot extremes are one of the primary determinants of growth
552
trajectories for boreal black spruce forests, as has been observed for white spruce seedlings
553
in plantations by Benomar et al. (2018). The deeper root system of jack pine trees could
554
have allowed them to access additional water resource in deeper soil layers, and their
555
greater resource use efficiency could have prevented them from an overuse of carbon
556
reserves during heatwaves, potentially leading to an uninterrupted carbohydrates storage
557
during hotter-than-average late growing seasons. The resulting higher amount of
558
photosynthates available the following spring could explain the positive correlation
559
between jack pine growth and previous autumn temperature. Our results also suggest that
560
in addition to the effect of species-specific traits, some variation originated from spatially
561
varying site features like stand maturity, position along the elevational gradient, regional
562
climate and soil conditions. Yet, these site-level features explained a lower proportion of
563
the variance in patterns of growth-climate relationships within bioclimatic domains.
564
As predicted from our main working hypothesis, position along the elevational
565
gradient explained a low but significant proportion of the variation in tree response to
566
spring and summer temperature and to previous summer precipitation. This finding
567
illustrates diverging climatic constraints, from water-limited trees at low elevation to trees
568
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 34
constrained by cold temperatures during the growing season at the high end of the
569
elevational gradient. Contrary to our expectations, growth of black spruce was more
570
negatively affected by mild springs when located in the upper portion of our elevational
571
gradient. This counter-intuitive effect of mild springs was recently observed elsewhere
572
(Babst, Carrer, et al., 2012; Ols et al., 2017) and could result from earlier onset of
573
physiological activity and growth in response to warming (Gu et al., 2008; Richardson et
574
al., 2018; Vitasse, Signarbieux, & Fu, 2017). Late-frost events generally occur more
575
frequently at higher elevations and in cold regions such as the Boreal East and Taiga than
576
at lower elevation or in relatively warmer regions such as the Boreal West. These events
577
can damage early formed shoots and roots, thereby reducing total seasonal growth (Kidd,
578
Copenheaver, & Zink-Sharp, 2014; Montwé, Isaac-Renton, Hamann, & Spiecker, 2018).
579
Summer warmth had a contrasting effect on tree growth, depending upon its
580
occurrence. While previous-year high temperatures had negative effects on growth during
581
the following growing season, hotter-than-average summers had an immediate and positive
582
effect on growth rates in the year of occurrence. The latter relationship, which had been
583
observed in the Boreal East and Taiga, was more pronounced for stands at upper elevation
584
sites than at lower elevations and could be linked to a decrease in the risk of late-frost
585
damage and faster snowmelt in early summer (Vitasse et al., 2017). Hot summers are also
586
correlated with high solar radiation and, consequently, with higher rates of photosynthesis,
587
especially in sites where water is not a factor limiting to tree growth, such as stands at the
588
high end of our elevational gradient in the Boreal East and Taiga. Temperature generally
589
decreases with elevation, so an increase in summer temperature can lead to a greater net
590
beneficial effect on tree growth at higher elevations (see Supporting Information S12).
591
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 35
However, the resulting growth gain would have been outweighted by the growth decline
592
due to late frost damage, which could explain that growth trends in stands within the central
593
hilly area were more negative than in the westernmost stands.
594
Effects of other variables on climate sensitivity, such as stand maturity and
595
competition, were generally consistent accross regions. Excess-heat during previous-year
596
summers and autumns had a significantly greater negative impact on black spruce growth
597
in older stands compared to more recently regenerated stands. The increase in climate
598
sensitivity with age has been extensively documented (e.g., Altman et al., 2017; Schuster
599
& Oberhuber, 2013), and was linked to ontogeny-related morphophysiological changes
600
(Ryan et al., 2006) leading to a decrease in hydraulic conductance (Magnani, Mencuccini,
601
& Grace, 2000). During drought, hydraulic conductance may decrease more strongly in old
602
and tall trees because of greater path resistance (Ryan & Yoder, 1997); the resulting
603
decreases in stomatal conductance and photosynthesis may entail, along with greater
604
metabolic demand in tall trees (Hartmann, 2011), depletion of carbohydrate reserves in
605
older stands. This response is a potential explanation for the negative relationship between
606
1970-2005 growth trends and stand age (Supporting Information S11; see also Chen et al.
607
(2016); Girardin et al. (2014)).
608
Competition pressure also significantly modulated the growth-climate
609
relationships. Growth of trees in densely vegetated (high BA) stands that were composed
610
of taller individuals (high CI) was more negatively correlated with excess-heat during
611
previous-year summers and less positively correlated to current-year wet summers than in
612
a less competitive environment. These relationships could have originated from lower
613
carbon assimilation and carbohydrate reserve formation originating from reduced water
614
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 36
availability (Gleason et al., 2017). In contrast, black spruce trees responded more positively
615
to mild winters in densely vegetated compared to more sparsely populated stands, which
616
may be due to the stabilizing effect of a dense canopy on local-scale hydrothermal
617
properties (Gu et al., 2008; Vaganov, Hughes, Kirdyanov, Schweingruber, & Silkin, 1999),
618
similar to the effect of high structural diversity (Aussenac et al., 2017).
619
Soil conditions accounted for a significant proportion of the variation in growth-
620
climate relationships, but this was true only for black spruce in the Boreal West. This region
621
is characterised by a contrasting physiography spanning comparatively flat landcapes with
622
a high proportion of peatlands in the west to hilly terrain with sandy-loam soils in the east
623
(Robitaille et al., 2015; also see Figure 1 and Table 1), together with resulting differences
624
in soil hydrology. During hot summers, the water table of soils with a high proportion of
625
organic material is lowered, and in combination with the high degree of dessication of the
626
peat substrate (Gewehr et al., 2014; Voortman et al., 2013), may have reduced water
627
availability and exacerbated summer heat stress, particularly for trees with shallow rooting
628
systems such as black spruce. Paradoxically, an excess of water during consecutive wet
629
springs and summers also reduced growth of black spruce in Boreal West (Figure 5), most
630
likely because of hypoxic stresses resulting from elevation of the water table in poorly
631
drained sites (Zobel, 1990). A positive correlation between growth of western black spruce
632
trees and the annual area burned, which is a proxy for litter and deep organic layer dryness
633
(Molinari et al., 2018), adds credibility to the assumption that tree sensitivity to
634
precipitation was strongly modulated by soil hydrology in the Boreal West (Supporting
635
Information S13).
636
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 37
Overall, we identified mostly negative growth trends for black spruce and only
637
barely positive trends for jack pine during the 1970-2005 period, which confirms the
638
absence of climatically-induced stimulation of tree vigour that was previously observed for
639
the boreal forest (Girardin et al., 2016; Hember et al., 2016; Ju & Masek, 2016; Zhu et al.,
640
2016). However, forest growth trends were spatially heterogeneous, and the productivity
641
of some areas increased over the last few decades. Variability in growth-climate
642
relationships that was explained by the set of variables considered in our analysis remained
643
low (< 25 %), as is the case in many studies focusing on ecological processes. Our random
644
sampling strategy implies that many factors, which are potentially involved in growth-
645
climate relationships, were not considered and could not be controlled for, such as the
646
effect of non-tree vegetation, insect epidemics, or nutrient cycling. In addition, the genetic
647
diversity of the species under study surely induced different responses to climate between
648
populations (Housset et al., 2016; but see Avanzi et al., 2019). Based upon our results, we
649
suggest that the warming threshold beyond which the productivity of the boreal forest will
650
shift from positive to negative (~ +2 °C; D’Orangeville et al., 2018) is likely very
651
heterogeneous across the boreal biome, but may already have been reached in many of our
652
black spruce stands.
653
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
654
This research was conducted as part of the International Research Group on Cold Forests.
655
This study was made possible thanks to the financial support that was provided by the
656
Strategic and Discovery programs of NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
657
Council of Canada), and a MITACS scholarship co-funded by NSERC and Ouranos.
658
Additional financial support was provided by the Canadian Forest Service and the UQAM
659
DRIVERS OF BOREAL FOREST GROWTH 38
Foundation (De Sève Foundation fellowship and TEMBEC forest ecology fellowship). We
660
thank Dan McKenney and Pia Papadopol (Canadian Forest Service) for providing the
661
ANUSPLIN climate data. Many thanks to XiaoJing Guo (Canadian Forest Service) for the
662
initial version of the R-scripts and helpful advice during statistical analyses, to Claire
663
Depardieu for relevant comments on the manuscript, and to Isabelle Lamarre and W. F. J.
664
Parsons for language editing.
665
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... Yet, climate-growth research has generally been region-specific and has generated contradicting results (Nicault et al., 2015;D'Orangeville et al., 2016). Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). ...
... Yet, climate-growth research has generally been region-specific and has generated contradicting results (Nicault et al., 2015;D'Orangeville et al., 2016). Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). ...
... Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). Among the few broader-scoped studies, D' Orangeville et al. (2016) linked water availability and air temperature to interannual growth of>26,000 black spruce trees from 16,450 stands across 583,000 km 2 in eastern Canada (Québec). ...
Article
Boreal forests are experiencing climate change more rapidly than other biomes, which is likely to impact their future management. Understanding how tree growth responds to regional and seasonal variation in climate is essential to anticipate future management of boreal forests. We compiled and summarized black spruce climate-growth relationships from 11 dendroclimatology studies in boreal forests of Northeastern North America. Using a statistical synthesis of 113 sites and 2,995 black spruce trees, latitudinal trends were found to affect the growth response to monthly climate variables. Below 50°N, a high portion of sites showed a negative growth response to summer temperatures, whereas these were positive between 50°N and 54°N. Growth response to previous summer precipitation was consistently positive across latitudinal range. This shift from negative to positive growth response to summer temperatures observed between 50 and 51°N was confirmed through meta-analysis and was found to be associated with a mean annual temperature of ∼ 0 °C. This threshold is likely representative of the limit at which black spruce growth shifts from being moisture- to temperature-limited. By directly relating growth-climate relationships to mean annual temperature and precipitation at a given site, our meta-analysis allows readers to easily grasp the current growth response of black spruce to climate variation. Combined with climate projections, our results may also be used to facilitate the estimation of black spruce growth trends through time, and thus inform the implementation of adaptative silvicultural measures.
... Yet, climate-growth research has generally been region-specific and has generated contradicting results (Nicault et al., 2015;D'Orangeville et al., 2016). Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). ...
... Yet, climate-growth research has generally been region-specific and has generated contradicting results (Nicault et al., 2015;D'Orangeville et al., 2016). Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). ...
... Most commonly, black spruce interannual radial growth has been found to respond negatively to previous summer temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Ols et al., 2018, Marchand et al., 2019 and low precipitation (D'Orangeville et al., 2016, Marchand et al., 2019, particularly in southern regions where black spruce growth is moisture-limited (Sniderhan et al., 2021). In contrast, growth has been reported to respond positively to previous summer precipitation, current winter and spring temperatures (Huang et al., 2010, Marchand et al., 2019 and longer growing seasons, particularly in regions characterized by relatively cool annual temperatures where growth is often temperature-limited (Girard et al., 2011). Among the few broader-scoped studies, D' Orangeville et al. (2016) linked water availability and air temperature to interannual growth of>26,000 black spruce trees from 16,450 stands across 583,000 km 2 in eastern Canada (Québec). ...
... climate factors over time. Here, we used 'Size Class Isolation' (SCI; Peters et al., 2015) and 'generalized additive mixed model' (GAMM; Hararuk et al., 2019;Marchand et al., 2019) methods for detecting tree-growth trends. BAI series were detrended using GAMM with normal error distribution structure as follows: ...
... "s" represents the cubic regression spline used for smoothing of the variables. These detrended BAI series growth trends (i.e. after removing the ontogenetic and competition effects) are most likely to be caused by climate and/or other external disturbances only (Marchand et al., 2019). GAMM detrending was performed in 'mgcv' package (v.1.8-31) ...
... The site-specific radial growth trends of T. ciliata can also be attributed to the difference in soil properties and other site-specific factors. Our results were consistent with the results of Marchand et al. (2019) where differential tree-growth rates across boreal North America were linked with stand dynamics, regional climate, and site-specific soil conditions. Moreover, site/region-specific growth rates of tropical and subtropical trees are attributed to within and among species variations and tree-intrinsic growth rates (Brienen and Zuidema, 2006;Xing et al., 2012;Yan et al., 2021). ...
Article
Tropical forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle and climate regulation. However, our understanding of how Asian tropical forest growth responds to climatic variations is still limited. We developed tree ring-width chronologies of Toona ciliata from 90 trees (139 cores) from two study regions in the tropical/subtropical forests in Yunnan, southwestern China. Bootstrapped correlation analysis revealed positive moisture sensitivity (precipitation, self-calibrated Palmer drought severity index, relative humidity, and soil moisture) and negative temperature sensitivity of T. ciliata, and the relationship was strongest during dry and/or dry-to-wet transition months, indicating that radial growth of T. ciliata is primarily limited by low moisture availability during early growing season. Furthermore, radial growth of T. ciliata was significantly negatively correlated with the vapor pressure deficit and potential evapotranspiration during dry and/or dry-to-wet transition months. We analyzed long-term growth trends of T. ciliata using ‘size class isolation (SCI)’ and ‘generalized additive mixed models (GAMM)’ approaches which remove the effects of tree size on tree growth. We detected decreasing growth rates for both approaches at both study regions, indicating that the growth decline of T. ciliata stands in southwestern China is likely due to global warming-induced moisture deficit. The growth of T. ciliata trees is likely to continually decline under projected warming and drying conditions. The observed growth declines of T. ciliata raised concerns about developing sustainable management and conservation programs for tropical/subtropical forests in China.
... Individual tree basal area increment is a reliable proxy of tree vigour, enabling to understand the response of forests to climate change (Xu et al. 2017;Marchand et al. 2019). Treering series are valuable tools to monitor both growth trends and tree responses to drought (e.g. ...
Article
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Impacts of climate warming on forests vigour are forecasted to increase in magnitude. Yet it remains unclear how stand characteristics and competition modulate the relationship between tree growth and gross primary production with drought. Here, we studied how the spatial variation in stand density, basal area and height modulates tree growth (Basal Area Increment, BAI and stand growth), summer NDVI, as well as their responses to drought (Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, SPEI) in 56 Aleppo pine ( Pinus halepensis Mill.) planted forests located in Northeast Spain. Long-term BAI responses to SPEI were strongly determined by stand density, suggesting that competition modulates Aleppo pine growth responses to drought. Along this, summer NDVI also displayed strong associations with SPEI. NDVI was mostly related with stand growth, suggesting canopy densification drives NDVI pattern and trends. Short-term BAI and NDVI responses to severe droughts were mainly independent of stand characteristics. In the studied region, drought is a universal factor limiting Aleppo pine secondary growth and canopy greening. However, the results suggest that stand density modulates Aleppo pine growth responses to drought on the long-term, reducing the growth in densest stands. Denser stands with larger trees are the ones that present higher NDVI values, suggesting that canopy activity depends more on stand canopy coverage than on secondary growth rate and its response to drought. In these Mediterranean pines, canopy activity and secondary growth are temporally coupled but spatially decoupled.
... All of these changes have consequences for water table depths and fuel moisture patterns across the landscape, but when and where drought will occur and how the frequency may change is more difficult to predict. Understanding how these changes affect boreal systems, their ecological function, carbon cycling, wildlife habitat, fire regimes, and successional trajectories have all been topics of recent research (Rogers et al., 2015(Rogers et al., , 2020Veraverbeke et al., 2017;Sulla-Menashe et al., 2018;Whitman et al., 2018;Boelman et al., 2019;Marchand et al., 2019;Thompson et al., 2019;Spence et al., 2020;Walker et al., 2020a,b;Baltzer et al., 2021). The effects of a changing climate, in particular drought on peatland wildfire (Thompson et al., 2019), as well as an understanding of peatland-fire interactions (Nelson et al., 2021), have been topics of little research until recently. ...
Article
Full-text available
Climate warming and changing fire regimes in the North American boreal zone have the capacity to alter the hydrology and ecology of the landscape with long term consequences to peatland ecosystems and their traditional role as carbon sinks. It is important to understand how peatlands are affected by wildfire in relation to both extent of burn and severity of burn to the organic soil (peat) layers where most of the C is stored. Peatlands cover more than 75% of the landscape in the southern Northwest Territories, Canada where extreme drought led to widespread wildfires in 2014–2015. To assess the wildfire effects across a 14.6 million ha study area including 136 wildfire events, we used an integration of field data collection, land cover mapping of peatland and upland ecotypes, Landsat-8-based mapping of burn severity to the soil organic layers, and MODIS-hotspot mapping of fire progression for season of burning. The intersection of these geospatial products allows for a broadscale assessment of wildfire effects across gradients of ecotype, ecoregions, seasons, and year of burn. Using a series of chi-squared goodness of fit tests, we found that peatlands are more susceptible to wildfire on the Taiga shield where they are smaller and hydrologically isolated by the rocky landscape. There burning affected proportionally larger peat areas with an evenness of burn severity to the organic soil layers which may lead to less spatial diversity in post-fire recovery, making the landscape less resilient to future fire. The most resilient peatlands are expected to be hydrologically well-connected to both ground water systems and larger peatland complexes such as those on the Taiga plains which exhibited large unburned and singed patches across the landscape, and greater variability in burn severity across seasons and ecotypes. Understanding the tipping point of drought conditions at which the landscape becomes connected, and peatlands are susceptible to wildfire with deeper burning of the organic soil layers is important for understanding the potential future effects of climate change and projected increases in wildfire on peatlands. This is critical for C accounting and climate mitigation strategies.
... At the species level, growth of trees can vary based on life-history strategies and sensitivity to climate and insect epidemics (Brecka et al. 2020). Apart from these strategies and sensitivities, growth of trees can also depend on the surrounding environment, including soil properties (Marchand et al. 2019), and within stand competition and species diversity (Aussenac et al. 2019). Concerns about vulnerabilities of boreal forests to increasing temperatures and insect epidemics (Gauthier et al. 2014) and the paucity of knowledge on how site-specific factors could affect their impacts mean that additional information about the growth of boreal tree species in different surrounding environments is warranted. ...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated how the surrounding environment influences the growth of dominant trees and their responses to temperature and insect epidemics in boreal forests of eastern Canada. We focused on 82 black spruce and jack pine focal trees in stands spanning a double gradient of species diversity and soil texture within a 36 km2 area of western Québec. For these trees, we compared their diameter at breast height, growth rates, temperature-growth relations, and growth during insect defoliator epidemics. We used linear models to study how surrounding tree attributes and soil properties affected the growth of focal trees. Models showed that tree growth responses and responses to temperature and insect epidemics were generally negative with higher intraspecific competition and positive with greater tree species diversity. Growth of both species benefitted from lower soil sand content. Our research offers novel insights on the potential role of the surrounding environment, notably tree competition and species diversity, in mitigating the vulnerability of eastern Canada’s boreal trees to anthropogenic climate change and insect epidemics.
... Multiple evidences of forest dieback and growth decline have been reported associated to dry spells (Allen et al. 2015). Therefore, the future facing forests is still an open question for the scientific community (Marchand et al. 2019). Solving this question is essential for forest productivity forecasting, especially in drought prone areas such as north and central Mexico where climate models forecast warmer and drier conditions (Seager et al. 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Alteration of forest by climate change and human activities modify the growth response of trees to temperature and moisture. Growth trends of young forests with even-aged stands recruited recently when the climate became warmer and drier are not well known. We analyze the radial growth response of young conifer trees (37–63 years old) to climatic parameters and drought stress employing Pearson correlations and the Vaganov-Shashkin Lite (VS-Lite) model. This study uses tree rings of six species of conifer trees (Pinus teocote, Pinus pseudostrobus, Pinus pinceana, Pinus montezumae, Pinus ayacahuite, and Taxodium mucronatum) collected from young forests with diverse growth conditions in northern and central Mexico. Seasonal ring growth and earlywood width (EW) were modeled as a function of temperature and soil moisture using the VS-Lite model. Wet and cool conditions in the previous winter and current spring enhance ring growth and EW production, mainly in sensitive species from dry sites (P. teocote, P. pseudostrobus, P. pinceana, and P. montezumae), whereas the growth of species from mesic sites (P. ayacahuite and T. mucronatum) shows little responsiveness to soil moisture. In P. ayacahuite and T. mucronatum, latewood growth is enhanced by warm summer conditions. The VS-Lite model shows that low soil moisture during April and May constrains growth in the four sensitive species, particularly in P. pinceana, the species dominant in the most xeric sites. Assessing seasonal ring growth and combining its response to climate with process-based growth models could complement xylogenesis data. Such framework should be widely applied, given the predicted warming and its impact on young forests.
Article
The growth of trees in riparian forests in semi-arid savannas is resilient to the natural variations in temperature and precipitation due to the availability of riverine water. Climate change can nevertheless, intensify the evapotranspiration of tree species, altering biodiversity, plant productivity and ecosystem services. Understanding the growth response of riparian tree species to climate change is, therefore, critical for their management and conservation. Here, we used 23 cross-dated stem discs of Anogeissus leiocarpus (DC.) Guill. and Perr. and Afzelia africana Sm. randomly sampled from riparian forests in the humid and dry savanna regions of Ghana to assess their growth response to climate change. A generalized additive mixed model (GAMM) was used to integrate species-specific basal area increments to an array of explanatory variables that may affect growth, including tree size and seasonal temperature and precipitation between 1982 and 2013. We observed significant association between tree size, rainy and dry season temperatures and precipitation variables, and changes in tree growth. Despite the strong fluctuations in tree growth over time, the estimated growth rates of the species from the residuals of the GAMMs showed no significant change in growth. Our findings suggest that these riparian forests are highly resistant to weather extremes and therefore, might persist (up to a certain point) even if climate change continues to intensify.
Article
Tree‐ring data has been widely used to inform about tree growth responses to drought at the individual scale, but less is known about how tree growth sensitivity to drought scales up driving changes in forest dynamics. Here, we related tree‐ring growth chronologies and stand‐level forest changes in basal area from two independent datasets to test if tree‐ring responses to drought match stand forest dynamics (stand basal area growth, ingrowth and mortality). We assessed if tree growth and changes in forest basal area covary as a function of spatial scale and tree taxa (gymnosperm or angiosperm). To this end, we compared a tree‐ring network with stand data from the Spanish National Forest Inventory. We focused on the cumulative impact of drought on tree growth and demography in the period 1981‐2005. Drought years were identified by the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), and their impacts on tree growth by quantifying tree‐ring width reductions. We hypothesized that forests with greater drought impacts on tree growth will also show reduced stand basal area growth and ingrowth and enhanced mortality. This is expected to occur in forests dominated by gymnosperms on drought‐prone regions. Cumulative growth reductions during dry years were higher in forests dominated by gymnosperms and presented a greater magnitude and spatial autocorrelation than for angiosperms. Cumulative drought‐induced tree growth reductions and changes in forest basal area were related, but initial stand density and basal area were the main factors driving changes in basal area. In drought‐prone gymnosperm forests we observed that sites with greater growth reductions had lower stand basal area growth and greater mortality. Consequently, stand basal area, forest growth and ingrowth in regions with large drought impacts was significantly lower than in regions less impacted by drought. Tree growth sensitivity to drought can be used as a predictor of gymnosperm demographic rates in terms of stand basal area growth and ingrowth at regional scales, but further studies may try to disentangle how initial stand density modulates such relationships. Drought‐induced growth reductions and their cumulative impacts have strong potential to be used as early‐warning indicators of regional forest vulnerability.
Article
Full-text available
Increasing air temperatures and changing precipitation patterns due to climate change can affect tree growth in boreal forests. Periodic insect outbreaks affect the growth trajectory of trees, making it difficult to quantify the climate signal in growth dynamics at scales longer than a year. We studied climate-driven growth trends and the influence of spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clem.) outbreaks on these trends by analyzing the basal area increment (BAI) of 2058 trees of Abies balsamea (L.) Mill., Picea glauca (Moench) Voss, Thuja occidentalis L., Populus tremuloides Michx., and Betula papyrifera Marsh, which co-occurs in the boreal mixedwood forests of western Quebec. We used a generalized additive mixed model (GAMM) to analyze species-specific trends in BAI dynamics from 1967 to 1991. The model relied on tree size, cambial age, degree of spruce budworm defoliation, and seasonal climatic variables. Overall, we observed a decreasing growth rate of the spruce budworm host species, A. balsamea and P. glauca between 1967 and 1991, and an increasing growth rate for the non-host, P. tremuloides, B. papyrifera, and T. occidentalis. Our results suggest that insect outbreaks may offset growth increases resulting from a warmer climate. The observation warrants the inclusion of the spruce budworm defoliation into models predicting future forest productivity.
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Climate−tree growth relationships recorded in annual growth rings have recently been the basis for projecting climate change impacts on forests. However, most trees and sample sites represented in the International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB) were chosen to maximize climate signal and are characterized by marginal growing conditions not representative of the larger forest ecosystem. We evaluate the magnitude of this potential bias using a spatially unbiased tree-ring network collected by the USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. We show that U.S. Southwest ITRDB samples overestimate regional forest climate sensitivity by 41–59%, because ITRDB trees were sampled at warmer and drier locations, both at the macro- and micro-site scale, and are systematically older compared to the FIA collection. Although there are uncertainties associated with our statistical approach, projection based on representative FIA samples suggests 29% less of a climate change-induced growth decrease compared to projection based on climate-sensitive ITRDB samples.
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The negative growth response of North American boreal forest trees to warm summers is well documented and the constraint of competition on tree growth widely reported, but the potential interaction between climate and competition in the boreal forest is not well studied. Because competition may amplify or mute tree climate‐growth responses, understanding the role current forest structure plays in tree growth responses to climate is critical in assessing and managing future forest productivity in a warming climate. Using white spruce tree ring and carbon isotope data from a long‐term vegetation monitoring program in Denali National Park and Preserve we investigated the hypotheses that 1) competition and site moisture characteristics mediate white spruce radial growth response to climate and 2) moisture limitation is the mechanism for reduced growth. We further examined the impact of large reproductive events (mast years) on white spruce radial growth and stomatal regulation. We found that competition and site moisture characteristics mediated white spruce climate‐growth response. The negative radial growth response to warm and dry early‐ to mid‐summer and dry late‐summer conditions intensified in high competition stands and in areas receiving high potential solar radiation. Discrimination against ¹³C was reduced in warm, dry summers and further diminished on south‐facing hillslopes and in high competition stands, but was unaffected by climate in open floodplain stands, supporting the hypothesis that competition for moisture limits growth. Finally, during mast years, we found a shift in current year's carbon resources from radial growth to reproduction, reduced ¹³C discrimination, and increased intrinsic water use efficiency. Our findings highlight the importance of temporally variable and confounded factors, such as forest structure and climate, on the observed climate‐growth response of white spruce. Thus, white spruce growth trends and productivity in a warming climate will likely depend on landscape position and current forest structure. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Winter (previous October to current February) snow is an important driver of tree growth in regions where growing‐season precipitation is limited. However, observational evidence of this influence at larger spatial scales and across diverse bioclimatic regions is lacking. Here, we investigated the interannual effects of winter snow depth on tree growth across temperate China over the period of 1961−2015, using a regional network of tree ring records, in‐situ daily snow depth observations, and gridded climate data. We report uneven effects of winter snow depth on subsequent growing‐season tree growth across temperate China. There shows little effect on tree growth in drier regions that we attribute mainly to limited snow accumulation during winter. By contrast, winter snow exerts important positive influence on tree growth in stands with high winter snow accumulation (e.g., in parts of cold arid regions). The magnitude of this effect depends on the proportion of winter snow to pre‐growing‐season (previous October to current April) precipitation. We further observed that tree growth in drier regions tends to be increasingly limited by warmer growing‐season temperature and early growing‐season water availability. No compensatory effect of winter snow on the intensifying drought limitation of tree growth was observed across temperate China. Our findings point towards an increase in drought vulnerability of temperate forests in a warming climate. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Predicted increases in temperature and aridity across the boreal forest region have the potential to alter timber supply and carbon sequestration. Given the widely-observed variation in species sensitivity to climate, there is an urgent need to develop species-specific predictive models that can account for local conditions. Here, we matched the growth of 270,000 trees across a 761,100 km 2 region with detailed site-level data to quantify the growth responses of the seven most common boreal tree species in Eastern Canada to changes in climate. Accounting for spatially-explicit species-specific responses, we find that while 2 °C of warming may increase overall forest productivity by 13 ± 3% (mean ± SE) in the absence of disturbance, additional warming could reverse this trend and lead to substantial declines exacerbated by reductions in water availability. Our results confirm the transitory nature of warming-induced growth benefits in the boreal forest and highlight the vulnerability of the ecosystem to excess warming and drying.
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Shifts in vegetation phenology are a key example of the biological effects of climate change1-3. However, there is substantial uncertainty about whether these temperature-driven trends will continue, or whether other factors-for example, photoperiod-will become more important as warming exceeds the bounds of historical variability4,5. Here we use phenological transition dates derived from digital repeat photography6 to show that experimental whole-ecosystem warming treatments7 of up to +9 °C linearly correlate with a delayed autumn green-down and advanced spring green-up of the dominant woody species in a boreal Picea-Sphagnum bog. Results were confirmed by direct observation of both vegetative and reproductive phenology of these and other bog plant species, and by multiple years of observations. There was little evidence that the observed responses were constrained by photoperiod. Our results indicate a likely extension of the period of vegetation activity by 1-2 weeks under a 'CO2 stabilization' climate scenario (+2.6 ± 0.7 °C), and 3-6 weeks under a 'high-CO2 emission' scenario (+5.9 ± 1.1 °C), by the end of the twenty-first century. We also observed severe tissue mortality in the warmest enclosures after a severe spring frost event. Failure to cue to photoperiod resulted in precocious green-up and a premature loss of frost hardiness8, which suggests that vulnerability to spring frost damage will increase in a warmer world9,10. Vegetation strategies that have evolved to balance tradeoffs associated with phenological temperature tracking may be optimal under historical climates, but these strategies may not be optimized for future climate regimes. These in situ experimental results are of particular importance because boreal forests have both a circumpolar distribution and a key role in the global carbon cycle11.
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The influence of different drivers on changes in North American and European boreal forests biomass burning (BB) during the Holocene was investigated based on the following hypotheses: land use was important only in the southernmost regions, while elsewhere climate was the main driver modulated by changes in fuel type. BB was reconstructed by means of 88 sedimentary charcoal records divided into six different site clusters. A statistical approach was used to explore the relative contribution of (1) pollen‐based mean July/summer temperature and mean annual precipitation reconstructions, (2) an independent model‐based scenario of past land use (LU), and (3) pollen‐based reconstructions of plant functional types (PFTs) on BB. Our hypotheses were tested with: (1) a west‐east northern boreal sector with changing climatic conditions and a homogeneous vegetation, and (2) a north‐south European boreal sector characterized by gradual variation in both climate and vegetation composition. The processes driving BB in boreal forests varied from one region to another during the Holocene. However, general trends in boreal biomass burning were primarily controlled by changes in climate (mean annual precipitation in Alaska, northern Quebec and northern Fennoscandia, and mean July/summer temperature in central Canada and central Fennoscandia) and, secondarily, by fuel composition (BB positively correlated with the presence of boreal needleleaf evergreen trees in Alaska and in central and southern Fennoscandia). Land use played only a marginal role. A modification towards less flammable tree species (by promoting deciduous stands over fire‐prone conifers) could contribute to reduce circumboreal wildfire risk in future warmer periods. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Wildfire is the primary abiotic disturbance in the boreal forest, and its long-term absence can lead to large changes in ecosystem properties, including the availability and cycling of nutrients. These effects are, however, often confounded with the effects of successional changes in vegetation toward nutrient-conservative species. We studied a system of boreal forested lake islands in eastern Canada, where time since last fire ranged from 50 to 1500 years, and where the relative abundance of the most nutrient-conservative tree species, black spruce, was largely independent of time since last fire. This allowed us to disentangle the effects of time since fire and the dominant vegetation on ecosystem properties, including nutrient stocks and concentrations. Effects of time since fire independent of vegetation composition mostly involved an increase in the thickness of the organic layer and in nitrogen concentration in both soil and leaves. Domination by black spruce had strong negative effects on nutrient concentrations and was associated with a shift toward more fungi and Gram-positive bacteria in the soil microbial community. Path modeling showed that phosphorus concentration was inversely related to organic layer thickness, which was in turn related to both time since fire and black spruce abundance, while nitrogen was more directly related to time since fire and the composition of the overstory. We conclude that discriminating between the effects of vegetation and time since fire is necessary for better understanding and predicting the long-term changes that occur in forest nutrient availability and ecosystem properties.
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With lengthening growing seasons but increased temperature variability under climate change, frost damage to plants may remain a risk and could be exacerbated by poleward planting of warm-adapted seed sources. Here, we study cold adaptation of tree populations in a wide-ranging coniferous species in western North America to inform limits to seed transfer. Using tree-ring signatures of cold damage from common garden trials designed to study genetic population differentiation, we find opposing geographic clines for spring frost and fall frost damage. Provenances from northern regions are sensitive to spring frosts, while the more productive provenances from central and southern regions are more susceptible to fall frosts. Transferring the southern, warm-adapted genotypes northward causes a significant loss of growth and a permanent rank change after a spring frost event. We conclude that cold adaptation should remain an important consideration when implementing seed transfers designed to mitigate harmful effects of climate change.
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The boreal biome represents approximately one third of the world's forested area and plays an important role in global biogeochemical and energy cycles. Numerous studies in boreal Alaska have concluded that growth of black and white spruce is declining as a result of temperature-induced drought stress. The combined evidence of declining spruce growth and changes in the fire regime that favor establishment of deciduous tree species has led some investigators to suggest the region may be transitioning from dominance by spruce to dominance by deciduous forests and/or grasslands. Although spruce growth trends have been extensively investigated, few studies have evaluated long-term radial growth trends of the dominant deciduous species (Alaska paper birch and trembling aspen) and their sensitivity to moisture availability. We used a large and spatially extensive sample of tree cores from interior Alaska to compare long-term growth trends among contrasting tree species (white and black spruce versus birch and aspen). All species showed a growth peak in the mid-1940s, although growth following the peak varied strongly across species. Following an initial decline from the peak, growth of white spruce showed little evidence of a trend, while black spruce and birch growth showed slight growth declines from ~1970 to present. Aspen growth was much more variable than the other species and showed a steep decline from ~1970 to present. Growth of birch, black and white spruce was sensitive to moisture availability throughout most of the tree-ring chronologies, as evidenced by negative correlations with air temperature and positive correlations with precipitation. However, a positive correlation between previous July precipitation and aspen growth disappeared in recent decades, corresponding with a rise in the population of the aspen leaf miner (Phyllocnistis populiella), an herbivorous moth, which may have driven growth to a level not seen since the early 20thcentury. Our results provide important historical context for recent growth and raise questions regarding competitive interactions among the dominant tree species and exchanges of carbon and energy in the warming climate of interior Alaska. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Cambial growth is a phenotypic trait influenced by various physiological processes, numerous biotic and abiotic drivers, as well as by the genetic background. By archiving the outcome of such complex interplay, tree-rings are an exceptional resource for addressing individual long-term growth responses to changing environments and climate. Disentangling the effects of the different drivers of tree growth, however, remains challenging because of the lack of multidisciplinary data. Here, we combine individual dendrochronological, genetic and spatial data to assess the relative importance of genetic similarity and spatial proximity on Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) growth performances. We intensively sampled five plots from two populations in southern and central Europe, characterizing a total of 482 trees. A two-step analytical framework was developed. First, the effects of climate and tree age on tree-ring width (TRW) were estimated for each individual using a random slope linear mixed-effects model. Individual parameters were then tested against genetic and spatial variables by Mantel tests, partial redundancy analyses and variance partitioning. Our modelling approach successfully captured a large fraction of variance in TRW (conditional R2 values up to 0.94) which was largely embedded in inter-individual differences. All statistical approaches consistently showed that genetic similarity was not related to variation in the individual parameters describing growth responses. In contrast, up to 29% of the variance of individual parameters was accounted by spatial variables, revealing that microenvironmental features are more relevant than genetic similarity in determining similar growth patterns. Our study highlights both the advantages of modelling dendrochronological data at the individual level and the relevance of microenvironmental variation on individual growth patterns. These two aspects should be carefully considered in future multidisciplinary studies on growth dynamics in natural populations.