, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 925–934 | Cite as

Continental-scale climatic drivers of growth ring variability in an Australian conifer

  • David M. J. S. BowmanEmail author
  • Lynda D. Prior
  • David Y. P. Tng
  • Quan Hua
  • Timothy J. Brodribb
Original Paper


Callitris is Australia’s most successful and drought tolerant conifer genus. Callitris species are distributed across a huge geographical range from rainforest to arid zones, and hence they provide a rare opportunity to view plant growth trends across the continent. Here, we make a continental-scale examination of how climate influences basal diameter growth in Callitris. We sampled a total of five species but focused effort (23 of 28 samples) on the most widespread species, C. columellaris. Cores from a total of 23 trees were sampled from 15 sites that spanned a gradient in mean annual rainfall from 225 to 2117 mm and mean annual temperature from 11.5 to 28.2°C. Ring production is not annual across much of the distribution of the genus, so 14C-AMS dating was used to establish the frequency of ring production for each core. Ring width, tracheid lumen diameter and number of tracheids per ring were also measured on each core. Ring production was close to annual at mesic sites with reliable alternation of rainfall or temperature regimes but was more erratic elsewhere. For C. columellaris, ring width significantly increased with mean annual rainfall (r2 = 0.49) as a result of wider and more tracheids per ring. For this species tracheid lumen diameter was correlated with annual rainfall (r2 = 0.61), with a threefold increase from the driest to the wettest sites, lending support to the hypothesis that conifers growing at drier sites will have narrow lumen diameters to maximise mechanical strength of the xylem.


Callitris columellaris Tree growth Rainfall Tracheids Lumen diameter 



We thank Scott Nichols, Phillip Moser, Diane Prior, Lachie McCaw, Kim Whitford, Richard Fairman, Sharyn Yelverton, Herman Mouthaan, Stephen Harris, Kim Webeck, Kathryn Allen and Stuart, Kate, Lily and Ted Pearson for field assistance. Rob Argent, Melbourne Water, collected the Snowy River sample. Scott Nichols and Kathryn Allen prepared the cores, and Zoe Lee helped in sample processing for AMS 14C analysis. Gregor Sanders prepared the map. This project received funding from CERF grant B0016193. Radiocarbon analysis was funded with grants from the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (Grants 00/122, 03/090P and 07/014). We thank the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, WA Department of Environment and Conservation, Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, the Consolidated Pastoral Company, Mr Garth Dunford, the Siemer family and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy for help with site selection and permission to sample on their land.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. J. S. Bowman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lynda D. Prior
    • 1
  • David Y. P. Tng
    • 1
  • Quan Hua
    • 2
  • Timothy J. Brodribb
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Plant ScienceUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Nuclear Science and Technology OrganisationKirrawee DCAustralia

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