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Age-Dependent Tree-Ring Growth Responses to Climate in Larix decidua and Pinus cembra

Marco Carrer and Carlo Urbinati
Ecology
Vol. 85, No. 3 (Mar., 2004), pp. 730-740
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3450399
Page Count: 11
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Age-Dependent Tree-Ring Growth Responses to Climate in Larix decidua and Pinus cembra
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Abstract

Dendrochronology generally operates under the assumption that climate-growth relationships are age independent, once growth trends and/or disturbance pulses have been accounted for. However, several studies have demonstrated that tree physiology undergoes changes with age. This may cause growth-related climate signals to vary over time. Using chronology statistics and response functions, we tested the consistency of climate-growth responses in tree-ring series from Larix decidua and Pinus cembra trees of four age classes. Tree-ring statistics (mean sensitivity, standard deviation, correlation between trees, and first principal component) did not change significantly with age in P. cembra, whereas in L. decidua they appeared to be correlated with age classes. Response function analysis indicated that climate accounts for a high amount of variance in tree-ring widths in both species. The older the trees are, the higher the variance explained by climate, the significance of the models, and the percentage of trees with significant responses. Age influence on climate sensitivity is likely to be non-monotonic. In L. decidua, the most important response function variables changed with age according to a twofold pattern: increasing for trees younger than 200 years and decreasing or constant for older trees. A similar pattern was observed in both species for the relationship between tree height and age. It is hypothesized that an endogenous parameter linked to hydraulic status becomes increasingly limiting as trees grow and age, inducing more stressful conditions and a higher climate sensitivity in older individuals. The results of this study confirm that the climate signal is maximized in older trees, but also that a sampling procedure non-stratified by age (especially in multi-aged forests) could lead to biased mean chronologies due to the higher amount of noise present in younger trees. The issue requires more extensive research as there are important ecological implications both at small and large geographic scales. Predictive modeling of forest dynamics and paleo-climate reconstructions may be less robust if the age effect is not accounted for.

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