Climatic Change

, Volume 124, Issue 1–2, pp 207–220 | Cite as

Linking two centuries of tree growth and glacier dynamics with climate changes in Kamchatka

  • Jiri Dolezal
  • Jan Altman
  • Valentina P. Vetrova
  • Toshihiko Hara


Glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed substantially. For the majority of alpine and arctic areas, however, the lack of meteorological data over a long period makes it difficult to build long-term climate and glacial fluctuation relationships, emphasizing the importance of natural proxy archives. Here we use the 230-year record of stem radial growth of birch trees (Betula ermanii) from the treeline forests above the receding glaciers in eastern maritime Kamchatka to analyse temporal variations of climate as well as glacial advance and retreat. Glaciers in Kamchatka Peninsula represent the southern limit of glaciation in far eastern Eurasia, which makes them prone to global warming. Using instrumental climate data (1930–1996) from local meteorological stations, we find that the July temperature had most prominent positive impact on birch growth. On the contrary, smaller ring increments are associated with the positive summer and net annual ice mass balance of Koryto Glacier. The prevailing trend of higher summer temperatures and lower snowfall over the past 70 years has enhanced tree growth while causing the glacier’s surface to lower by about 35 m and its front to retreat by about 490 m. Assuming these same relationships between climate, tree growth, and glacier mass balance also existed in the past, we use tree rings as a proxy record of climatically induced temporary halts in the glacier’s retreat over the past two centuries, which in total was over 1,000 m. Both direct observations and tree ring proxies indicate several prolonged warm periods (1990s, 1960s, 1930–1940s, 1880–1900s) interspersed with cooler periods (1984–1985, 1970–1976, 1953–1957, 1912–1926, 1855–1875, 1830–1845, 1805–1820 and 1770–1780) when the glacier re-advanced, creating several consecutive terminal moraine ridges. We conclude that birch tree-rings are suitable for assessing tree growth/climate/glacial relationships over a longer timescale in maritime Kamchatka.


Tree Ring Glacier Retreat Terminal Moraine Glacier Mass Balance Glacier Terminus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Marina Vyatkina, K. Homma, K. Takahashi, A. Ovsanikov, K. Yamagata and T. Sone for their field assistance and the members of the Kamchatka Institute of Ecology and Nature Management in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, for their hospitality and logistic support. This study was supported by a Monbusho Grant-in-Aid for International Scientific Research (11691166) from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture of Japan. JD and JA was supported during the elaboration of this paper by GAČR 13-13368S. We thank Dr. Brian G. McMillan for linguistic improvements.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1093_MOESM1_ESM.docx (279 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 279 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiri Dolezal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Altman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Valentina P. Vetrova
    • 3
  • Toshihiko Hara
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Functional EcologyInstitute of Botany of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicTrebonCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of Science, Department of BotanyUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Kamchatka Branch of Pacific Institute of GeographyFar-Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of SciencesPetropavlovsk-KamchatskyRussia
  4. 4.Institute of Low Temperature ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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