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Variable climate response differentiates the growth of Sky Island Ponderosa Pines

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The seasonally cool and moist conditions of spring improved the growth of two co-occurring ponderosa pine species, which displayed different seasonal climatic responses and length of correlations to drought.

Abstract

We examined the climatic sensitivity of two partially sympatric pine species growing at their transition zone in the Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ, USA. Pinus arizonica is found at lower elevations compared to P. ponderosa var. brachyptera. Ring widths were measured in trees at two sites and correlated with precipitation, temperature, and Palmer Drought Severity Index to assess the influence of climate on growth. The two species were analyzed within and between sites, which have similar elevation, aspect, and species composition, although soils at the two sites have different water-holding capacities. Response function analyses of P. arizonica [sampled near its upper (and wetter) elevation limit], and P. ponderosa var. brachyptera [sampled near its lower (and drier) elevation limit] indicated that annual growth correlated positively and strongly with spring precipitation at both study locations. Local site conditions had a major impact on tree growth and variability in site conditions helped resolve the differences in species’ response to climate. For example, at the less dry site, growth of the lower-elevation pine (P. arizonica) responded to early-winter precipitation, while P. ponderosa var. brachyptera did not. Also, correlation analysis indicated that P. arizonica’s growth was more sensitive to drought for longer periods than P. ponderosa var. brachyptera. Finally, partial temperature-growth correlations of P. arizonica and P. ponderosa var. brachyptera indicated growth was limited by increased growing season and winter respiration, respectively. Rising night-time temperatures during spring significantly reduced growth of P. arizonica at Mt. Lemmon. These findings demonstrate subtle yet meaningful interspecies differences in sensitivity to seasonal moisture stress and use of carbon resources.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is part of a dissertation submitted to Michigan State University in partial fulfillment of requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree. The Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies, USDA Forest Service, and the Paul Taylor Fellowship, Dept. of Plant Biology and Beal Botanical Garden, both of Michigan State University, supported the project. We thank three anonymous Reviewers and a Communicating Editor for constructive comments that improved the manuscript, and the following people for help on the project: J. Rayala, J. Grimes, G. Friedlander, J. Kilgore, and B. Epperson assisted with field data collection. A. Foss and S. Lietz provided lab, data processing, and GIS support. J. and L. Griffith, and A. and T. Harlan (both deceased) provided logistic support for the field research. The Coronado National Forest provided access to samples and the soils data. (A) Willyard and (B) Sturtevant provided constructive feedback. J. Smith reviewed the paper. L. Rayala edited the paper.

Data availability

The tree-ring datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB) repository, https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/paleoclimatology-data/datasets/tree-ring. These datasets include the raw ring widths for 90 trees (204 radii) and 4 composite chronologies listed in “Methods” (see Tree Growth Data).

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Communicated by S. Leavitt.

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Appendix 1: Validation of climatic data

Appendix 1: Validation of climatic data

Soils data used in the West Wide Drought Tracker PDSI calculation were obtained from Penn State University (Abatzoglou et al. 2017). The applicability of the 4-km resolution PDSI data was assessed by comparing the AWHC values of the specific soil units in the calculation (Abatzoglou et al. 2017) to those represented in the local soils plots near the research sites (n  = 180; 60 trees × 3 sites; Top panel; Suppl. Figure 1). The soils data used in the PDSI calculation indicate AWHC of 6.0% for the area encompassing the study sites. The modeled PDSI data were validated by interpolating AWHC values from soil pedons sampled from the Coronado National Forest (n = 14; Lower Panel; Suppl. Figure 1) and averaging the interpolated values for sampled tree locations (n = 120; 60 trees × 2 sites; AWHC = 5.9%). Precipitation and TAVG data were validated by correlating the modelled site data with locally collected weather data that were accurate but too short for tree-ring analysis. Palisades’ 17 years of PCP data (1965 to 1981) collected at 2425 m a.s.l. within 0.7 km of the study sites (Vose et al. 2014), were used to validate the monsoonal patterns (Suppl. Figure 2A). Kitt Peak’s 56 years of climate data (1960 to 2015; Vose et al. 2014) within c. 95 km and similar in elevation (2070 m) to the study sites, were used to validate winter PCP and TAVG (Suppl. Figure 2B, 2C). Pearson correlations were applied to validate the gridded climate dataset (McKenney et al. 2011). Correlations were consistently highest for the McKenney/NOAA PAL associations. Same month–month correlations are positive and range from 0.8 (June–June) for the TAVG association (Suppl. Figure 2C), to 1.0 (e.g., Feb.-Feb.) for the PCP associations (Suppl. Figure 2A). The strength of the collinear correlation is weakest for June–June PCP for the McKenney Mt. Lemmon/Kitt Peak dataset (0.52; Suppl. Figure 2B) because summer monsoon strongly influences Mt. Lemmon’s climate but not Kitt Peak’s.

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Marquardt, P.E., Miranda, B.R., Jennings, S. et al. Variable climate response differentiates the growth of Sky Island Ponderosa Pines. Trees 33, 317–332 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-018-1778-9

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Keywords

  • Dendroecology
  • Drought stress
  • Pinaceae
  • Response function
  • Tree ring
  • Ponderosae