Variations in the growth response of Pinus tabulaeformis to a warming climate at the northern limits of its natural range

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Key message

Higher temperatures are changing the geographical locations in which Pinus tabulaeformis plantations thrive. Future plantations should be located in the warmer, wetter regions of northern China.


The adaptability of fragile plantation ecosystems to environmental change, especially in our currently warming climate, has become an important issue. We studied the growth of Pinus tabulaeformis, a tree species endemic to China and widely used in plantations, along a climate–latitude gradient. We established a regional tree ring data network for P. tabulaeformis based on 1340 cores from 28 plantations at the northern limits of its natural range in China and studied the association between the radial growth of the pines and climate factors in a changing environment. Our results show that increasing temperatures have led to changes in the distribution of P. tabulaeformis, with plantations expanding in the southern sub-regions and shrinking in the northern sub-regions. An increase in temperature and the subsequent effect on the availability of water is the most important factor in the different responses of P. tabulaeformis growth to climate change. Relatively wetter regions, such as the southern part of our study area, may be better locations to develop future P. tabulaeformis plantations.

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Data availability

The raw data required to reproduce these findings cannot be shared at this time as the data also forms part of an ongoing study. But we uploaded the processed data.


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We thank Xuepeng Zhao and Xiaoyu Duan for their help with the fieldwork. We thank Meiting Hou and Xu Lu for the meteorological data.


This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China Project (31570632, 41888101, 41871027, 41571094 and 41601045).

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Correspondence to Zhenju Chen.

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Communicated by Eryuan Liang.

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Cai, L., Li, J., Bai, X. et al. Variations in the growth response of Pinus tabulaeformis to a warming climate at the northern limits of its natural range. Trees (2020).

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  • Environmental suitability
  • Growth change
  • Regional response
  • Pinus tabulaeformis
  • Tree rings