, Volume 174, Issue 3, pp 665–677 | Cite as

Climate sensitivity of reproduction in a mast-seeding boreal conifer across its distributional range from lowland to treeline forests

  • Carl A. RolandEmail author
  • Joshua H. Schmidt
  • Jill F. Johnstone
Physiological ecology - Original research


Mast-seeding conifers such as Picea glauca exhibit synchronous production of large seed crops over wide areas, suggesting climate factors as possible triggers for episodic high seed production. Rapidly changing climatic conditions may thus alter the tempo and spatial pattern of masting of dominant species with potentially far-reaching ecological consequences. Understanding the future reproductive dynamics of ecosystems including boreal forests, which may be dominated by mast-seeding species, requires identifying the specific cues that drive variation in reproductive output across landscape gradients and among years. Here we used annual data collected at three sites spanning an elevation gradient in interior Alaska, USA between 1986 and 2011 to produce the first quantitative models for climate controls over both seedfall and seed viability in P. glauca, a dominant boreal conifer. We identified positive associations between seedfall and increased summer precipitation and decreased summer warmth in all years except for the year prior to seedfall. Seed viability showed a contrasting response, with positive correlations to summer warmth in all years analyzed except for one, and an especially positive response to warm and wet conditions in the seedfall year. Finally, we found substantial reductions in reproductive potential of P. glauca at high elevation due to significantly reduced seed viability there. Our results indicate that major variation in the reproductive potential of this species may occur in different landscape positions in response to warming, with decreasing reproductive success in areas prone to drought stress contrasted with increasing success in higher elevation areas currently limited by cool summer temperatures.


Alaska Bayesian models Denali Picea glauca Reproductive ecology 



The authors thank the many people who have assisted with data collection over the two decades of this study. Research in the Bonanza Creek LTER study area have been supported by long-term funding from the LTER program at the National Science Foundation (current grant DEB-1026415) and the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and benefit from early contributions by J. Zasada, K. Van Cleve, and L. Viereck. Monitoring in Denali was supported by the National Park Service, and benefited from the early contributions of R. Densmore and J. Van Horn. Special thanks to E. F. Nicklen for running seed germination trials in Denali and assistance with preparation of figures, and to S. Stehn for leading field collection effort and assisting with database design, and to B. Charlton for leading field and laboratory work at BNZ. E. F Nicklen and S. E. Stehn, and several anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on an earlier draft.

Supplementary material

442_2013_2821_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 4387 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl A. Roland
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Joshua H. Schmidt
    • 1
  • Jill F. Johnstone
    • 3
  1. 1.National Park ServiceCentral Alaska NetworkFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Denali National Park and PreserveDenali ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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