, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 787-800
Date: 05 Aug 2011

Non-stationary influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation and winter temperature on oak latewood growth in NW Iberian Peninsula

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Abstract

The properties of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), such as period, amplitude, and teleconnection strength to extratropical regions, have changed since the mid-1970s. ENSO affects the regional climatic regime in SW Europe, thus tree performance in the Iberian Peninsula could be affected by recent ENSO dynamics. We established four Quercus robur chronologies of earlywood and latewood widths in the NW Iberian Peninsula. The relationship between tree growth and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), the atmospheric expression of ENSO, showed that only latewood growth was correlated negatively with the SOI of the previous summer–autumn–winter. This relationship was non-stationary, with significant correlations only during the period 1952–1980; and also non-linear, with enhanced latewood growth only in La Niña years, i.e. years with a negative SOI index for the previous autumn. Non-linear relationship between latewood and SOI indicates an asymmetric influence of ENSO on tree performance, biassed towards negative SOI phases. During La Niña years, climate in the study area was warmer and wetter than during positive years, but only for 1952–1980. Winter temperatures became the most limiting factor for latewood growth since 1980, when mean regional temperatures increased by 1°C in comparison to previous periods. As a result, higher winter respiration rates, and the extension of the growing season, would probably cause an additional consumption of stored carbohydrates. The influence of ENSO and winter temperatures proved to be of great importance for tree growth, even at lower altitudes and under mild Atlantic climate in the NW Iberian Peninsula.