Annals of Forest Science

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 189–200 | Cite as

Climate/growth relationships in a Pinus cembra high-elevation network in the Southern French Alps

  • Mélanie Saulnier
  • Jean-Louis Edouard
  • Christophe Corona
  • Frédéric Guibal
Original Paper



In the context of climate change, assessing climate–growth relationships is of high importance in order to understand how forest ecosystems evolve and to test climate models at regional scale.


This study aims to identify the climate variables that explain most of the variation in Pinus cembra radial growth at different spatial–temporal scales, response functions and moving response functions were processed on chronologies from a dense tree ring network. This original network is centred on the French Alps influenced by the Atlantic, Continental, and Mediterranean synoptic systems.


A spatial clustering pattern matching the latitudinal climatic gradient was observed in tree ring indexed chronologies and climate responses. The stationary response functions computed for each cluster-averaged population evidenced a thermo-dependent northern cluster (Cl1), a rainfall-dependent southern cluster (Cl3), and an alternative response for the intermediate cluster in between (Cl2). Since the late nineteenth century, the moving response functions indicate an increasing influence of winter precipitation for the northern and the intermediate clusters.


Considering the increase in temperature and reduction both of summer precipitation predicted by general circulation models and of the snow cover and duration in the French Alps, stone pine is likely to be exposed to stressful conditions during the twenty-first century.


Dendrochronology French Alps Pinus cembra Climate–growth responses 


Dans le contexte actuel de changement climatique, l’amélioration des connaissances concernant les relations entre le climat et la croissance des arbres est primordiale pour comprendre l’évolution des écosystèmes forestiers et tester des modèles climatiques à l’échelle régionale. Afin de déterminer les variables climatiques expliquant significativement les variations de la croissance radiale du Pin cembro à différentes échelles spatiales et temporelles, un vaste réseau de données dendrochronologiques a été utilisé pour le calcul de fonctions de réponse fixes et mobiles. Ce vaste réseau original est centré sur les Alpes françaises soumises à des influences climatiques océaniques, continentales et méditerranéennes. Les analyses en composante principale réalisées sur les chronologies indicées et sur les résultats des fonctions de réponse révèlent l’influence d’un gradient climatique latitudinal permettant d’identifier différents groupes de populations. Les fonctions de réponses calculées pour chaque groupe de populations moyennées mettent en évidence une dépendance aux températures des populations septentrionales (Cl1), une dépendance aux précipitations des populations méridionales (Cl3) et une réponse alternative d’un groupe intermédiaire Cl2). Depuis la fin du 19ème siècle les fonctions de réponse mobiles révèlent une augmentation de l’influence positive des précipitations hivernales pour les populations des groupes septentrionale et intermédiaire. Compte tenu de l’augmentation des températures et de la réduction à la fois des précipitations estivales prédites par les Modèles Globaux de Circulation et de l’épaisseur et de la durée de la couche nivale dans les Alpes françaises, le Pin cembro pourrait être soumis à une augmentation des conditions de stress au cours du 21ème siècle.



This work was supported by the project ESCARSEL (ANR-06-VULN-010), founded by the French ANR “Vulnérabilité: milieux et climat”, and the Parc Naturel Regional du Queyras and Parc National du Mercantour. Thanks are due to V. Petitcolas and Fleur-Meijer who made, respectively, ten and one chronologies available. Precipitation and temperature data were provided by the HISTALP project. We are deeply grateful to I. Auer for providing us with the latest revised version of the dataset. We also thank two anonymous referees who improved the earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mélanie Saulnier
    • 1
  • Jean-Louis Edouard
    • 2
  • Christophe Corona
    • 1
  • Frédéric Guibal
    • 1
  1. 1.IMEP, UMR 6116 CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université, Bâtiment VilleminAix-en-Provence cedex 4France
  2. 2.Centre Camille Jullian, UMR 6573 CNRS, MMSHAix-en-Provence cedex 2France

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