The growing season of high-elevation forests will presumably lengthen in response to warming. However, little is known about long-term effects of an extended growing season, particularly on the Tibetan Plateau. Based on a strong correlation between the daily mean temperatures at an automatic weather station at timberline (4,390 m a.s.l.) in the Sygera Mts., recorded since 2007, and at the meteorological station at Nyingchi (3,000 m a.s.l.), recorded since 1960, we modeled the variation in daily mean temperature at the timberline back to 1960. The onset and end of the growing season at the timberline were determined by the first and the last day within a year when the mean daily air temperature equals or exceeds, respectively falls below, +5 °C for at least 5 days. From 1960 to 2010, the estimated length of the growing season at the timberline has significantly extended by 21.2 days, resulting mainly from a significant delay of its end (by 14.6 days) rather than from an earlier onset (by 6.6 days). Nevertheless, the variation of the length of the growing season did not exhibit any significant effect on the radial growth of Smith fir at the timberlines. Thus, tree-ring width is still a reliable proxy for summer temperature.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bräuning A, Mantwill B (2004) Summer temperature and summer monsoon history on the Tibetan Plateau during the last 400 years recorded by tree rings. Geophys Res Lett 31:L24205. doi:10.1029/2004GL020793
Chen X, Hu B, Yu R (2005) Spatial and temporal variation of phenological growing season and climate change impacts in temperate eastern China. Glob Change Biol 11:1118–1130
Chmielewski FM, Rötzer T (2001) Response of tree phenology to climate change across Europe. Agric For Meteorol 108:101–112
Čufar K, De Luis M, Saz M, Črepinšek Z, Kajfež-Bogataj L (2012) Temporal shifts in leaf phenology of beech (Fagus sylvatica) depend on elevation. Trees 26:1091–1100
Gou X, Chen F, Yang M, Jacoby G, Fang K, Tian Q, Zhang Y (2008) Asymmetric variability between maximum and minimum temperatures in Northeastern Tibetan Plateau: evidence from tree rings. Sci China Ser D 51:41–55
Groisman PY, Karl TR, Knight RW (1994) Observed impact of snow cover on the heat balance and the rise of continental spring temperatures. Science 263:198–200
Høgda KA, Karlsen SR, Tømmervik H (2007) Changes in growing season in Fennoscandia 1982–1999. In: Ørbæk JB, Kallenborn R, Tombre I, Hegseth EN, Falk-Petersen S, Hoel AH (eds) Arctic alpine ecosystems and people in a changing environment. Springer, Berlin, pp 71–84
Holtmeier FK (2003) Mountain timberlines: ecology, patchiness, and dynamics. Kluwer, Dordrecht
Jiang FQ, Hu RJ, Zhang YW, Li XM, Tong L (2011) Variations and trends of onset, cessation and length of climatic growing season over Xinjiang, NW China. Theor Appl Climatol 10:449–458
Jones P, Briffa K (1995) Growing season temperatures over the former Soviet Union. Int J Climatol 15:943–959
Karlsen S, Solheim I, Beck P, Høgda K, Wielgolaski F, Tømmervik H (2007) Variability of the start of the growing season in Fennoscandia, 1982–2002. Int J Biometeorol 51:513–524
Keeling CD, Chin JFS, Whorf TP (1996) Increased activity of northern vegetation inferred from atmospheric CO2 measurements. Nature 382:146–149
Kimball JS, McDonald KC, Running SW, Frolking SE (2004) Satellite radar remote sensing of seasonal growing seasons for boreal and subalpine evergreen forests. Remote Sens Environ 90:243–258
Körner C (2003) Alpine plant life: functional plant ecology of high mountain ecosystems. Springer, Berlin
Körner C, Paulsen J (2004) A world-wide study of high altitude treeline temperatures. J Biogeogr 31:713–732
Kozlov MV, Berlina NG (2002) Decline in length of the summer season on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Clim Change 54:387–398
Li X, Liang E, Gričar J, Prislan P, Rossi S, Čufar K (2012) Age-dependence of xylogenesis and its climatic sensitivity in Smith fir on the south-eastern Tibetan Plateau. Tree Physiol. doi:10.1093/treephys/tps113
Liang EY, Shao XM, Xu Y (2009) Tree-ring evidence of recent abnormal warming on the southeast Tibetan Plateau. Theor Appl Climatol 98:9–18
Liang EY, Wang YF, Xu Y, Liu B, Shao XM (2010) Growth variations in Abies georgei var. smithii along altitudinal gradients in the Sygera Mts., southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Trees 24:363–373
Liang EY, Liu B, Zhu LP, Yin ZY (2011a) A short note on linkage of climatic records between a river valley and the upper timberline in the Sygera Mountains, southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Glob Planet Change 77:97–102
Liang EY, Wang YF, Eckstein D, Luo TX (2011b) Little change in the fir tree-line position on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau after 200 years of warming. New Phytol 190:760–769
Liang EY, Lu XM, Ren P, Li XX, Zhu LP, Eckstein D (2012) Annual increments of juniper dwarf shrubs above the tree line on the central Tibetan Plateau: a useful climatic proxy. Ann Bot 109:721–728
Liu XS, Luo TX (2011) Spatio-temporal variability of soil temperature and moisture across two contrasting timberline ecotones in the sergyemla mountains, southeast Tibet. Arct Antarct Alp Res 43:229–238
Liu XH, Qin DH, Shao XM, Chen T, Ren JW (2005) Temperature variations recovered from tree-rings in the middle Qilian Mountain over the last millennium. Sci China Ser D 48:521–529
Liu XD, Yin ZY, Shao XM, Qin NS (2006a) Temporal trends and variability of daily maximum and minimum, extreme temperature events, and growing season length over the eastern and central Tibetan Plateau during 1961–2003. J Geophys Res 111:D19109. doi:10.1029/2005JD006915
Liu Y, An ZS, Ma HZ, Cai QF, Liu ZY, Kutzbach JK, Shi JF, Song HM, Sun JY, Yi L, Li Q, Yang YK, Wang L (2006b) Precipitation variation in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau recorded by the tree rings since 850 AD and its relevance to the Northern hemisphere temperature. Sci China Ser D 49:408–420
Liu B, Liang EY, Zhu LP (2011) Microclimatic conditions for Juniperus saltuaria treeline in the Sygera Mountains, Southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Mt Res Dev 31:45–53
Lv LX, Zhang QB (2012) Asynchronous recruitment history of Abies spectabilis along an altitudinal gradient in the Mt. Everest region. J Plant Ecol 5:147–156
Miehe G, Miehe S, Vogel J, Co S, La D (2007) Highest treeline in the northern hemisphere found in southern Tibet. Mt Res Dev 27:169–173
Myneni RB, Keeling CD, Tucker CJ, Asrar G, Nemani RR (1997) Increased plant growth in the northern high latitudes from 1981 to 1991. Nature 386:698–702
Piao SL, Friedlingstein P, Ciais P, Peylin P, Zhu B, Reichstein M (2009) Footprint of temperature changes in the temperate and boreal forest carbon balance. Geophys Res Lett 36:L07404. doi:10.1029/2009GL037381
Rossi S, Deslauriers A, Griçar J, Seo JW, Rathgeber CBK, Anfodillo T, Morin H, Levanic T, Oven P, Jalkanen R (2008) Critical temperatures for xylogenesis in conifers of cold climates. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 17:696–707
Seo JW, Eckstein D, Jalkanen R, Rickebusch S, Schmitt U (2008) Estimating the onset of cambial activity in Scots pine in northern Finland by means of the heat-sum approach. Tree Physiol 28:105–112
Shen M, Tang Y, Chen J, Yang W. 2012. Specification of thermal growing season in temperate China from 1960 to 2009. Clim change 114:783–798
Shutova E, Wielgolaski FE, Karlsen SR, Makarova O, Berlina N, Filimonova T, Haraldsson E, Aspholm PE, Flø L, Høgda KA (2006) Growing seasons of Nordic mountain birch in northernmost Europe as indicated by long-term field studies and analyses of satellite images. Int J Biometeorol 51:155–166
Tucker CJ, Slayback DA, Pinzon JE, Los SO, Myneni RB, Taylor MG (2001) Higher northern latitude normalized difference vegetation index and growing season trends from 1982 to 1999. Int J Biometeorol 45:184–190
Vaganov EA, Hughes MK, Kirdyanov AV, Schweingruber FH, Silkin PP (1999) Influence of snowfall and melt timing on tree growth in subarctic Eurasia. Nature 400:149–151
Walther A, Linderholm HW (2006) A comparison of growing season indices for the Greater Baltic Area. Int J Biometeorol 51:107–118
Wang Y, Čufar K, Eckstein D, Liang E (2012a) Variation of maximum tree height and annual shoot growth of Smith fir at various elevations in the Sygera Mountains, southeastern Tibetan Plateau. PLoS ONE 7(3):e31725. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031725
Wang Y, Li X, Dawadi B, Eckstein D, Liang E (2012b) Phenological variation in height growth and needle unfolding of Smith fir along an altitudinal gradient on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Trees (this issue). doi:10.1007/s00468-012-0793-5
White MA, Running SW, Thornton PE (1999) The impact of growing-season length variability on carbon assimilation and evapotranspiration over 88 years in the eastern US deciduous forest. Int J Biometeorol 42:139–145
Wieser G, Matyssek R, Luzian R, Zwerger P, Pindur P, Oberhuber W, Gruber A (2009) Effects of atmospheric and climate change at the timberline of the Central European Alps. Ann For Sci 66:402
Yang B, Kang XC, Liu JJ, Bräuning A, Qin C (2010) Annual temperature history in southwest Tibet during the last 400 years recorded by tree rings. Int J Climatol 30:962–971
Zhu HF, Zheng YH, Shao XM, Liu XH, Xu Y, Liang EY (2008) Millennial temperature reconstruction based on tree-ring widths of Qilian juniper from Wulan, Qinghai Province, China. Chin Sci Bull 53:3914–3920
Zhu HF, Shao XM, Yin ZY, Xu P, Xu Y, Tian H (2011) August temperature variability in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau since AD 1385 inferred from tree rings. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 305:84–92
Zhu W, Tian H, Xu X, Pan Y, Chen G, Lin W (2012) Extension of the growing season due to delayed autumn over mid and high latitudes in North America during 1982–2006. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 21:260–271
This study was supported by the Knowledge Innovation Program, the “Strategic Priority Research Program—Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Relevant Issues” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-Y W-QN 111, XDA05090311) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41130529). We thank the Southeast Tibet Station for Alpine Environment, Observation and Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences for the great support of fieldwork, and the communicating editor (Prof. Dr. Achim Bräuning) and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.
Communicated by A. Braeuning.
Special topic: Dendroecology in Asia.
About this article
Cite this article
Liu, B., Li, Y., Eckstein, D. et al. Has an extending growing season any effect on the radial growth of Smith fir at the timberline on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau?. Trees 27, 441–446 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-012-0819-z