, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 549-558

Effects of climate on the radial growth of tree species in the upper and lower distribution limits of an altitudinal ecotone on Mount Norikura, central Japan

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Tree-ring width chronologies were developed for Abies veitchii, Betula ermanii and Betula platyphylla var. japonica in their altitudinal ecotone (approximately 1600 m a.s.l.) on Mount Norikura, central Japan, to determine what climatic conditions affect the growth of tree species in the upper and lower distribution limits of an altitudinal ecotone. This altitude was the lower distribution limit for A. veitchii and B. ermanii in the subalpine zone, and was the upper distribution limit for B. platyphylla var. japonica in the montane zone on Mount Norikura. Tree-ring widths of the two Betula species and A. veitchii were positively correlated with the August precipitation of the current and previous years, respectively. Precipitation in August (the hottest month) was reduced compared with other months during summer. Tree-ring width of B. platyphylla var. japonica showed no correlation with temperatures in any month in its upper distribution limit. In contrast, tree-ring widths of B. ermanii and A. veitchii were negatively correlated with the August temperatures of the current and previous years, respectively, at the lower distribution limit of these species. Therefore, the two Betula species and A. veitchii responded to climatic conditions of the current and previous years, respectively. The present study also suggests that a water deficit in August reduces growth of these three species in this altitudinal ecotone, irrespective of the upper or lower distribution limits, and that a high August temperature is more detrimental to the growth of A. veitchii and B. ermanii in their lower distribution limits. Thus, the three species with different altitudinal distributions examined in the present study responded differently to climatic conditions in this altitudinal ecotone on Mount Norikura.