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Phenological shifts compensate warming-induced drought stress in southern Siberian Scots pines

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Global climate change impacts the functioning and productivity of forest ecosystems at various spatiotemporal scales across a wide range of biomes. Although summer temperatures are considered the main driver of boreal tree growth, the importance of soil moisture availability is likely to rise with decreasing latitude and increasing warming. Here, we combine dendrochronological measurements with evidence from tree growth modeling and remote sensing to quantify the effect of climate on phenology and productivity of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris L.) in southern Siberia. Between 1960 and 2017, pine ring widths along a latitudinal transect from 53° to 56°N were mainly controlled by the availability of summer soil moisture. This finding challenges the common belief that summer temperatures are the predominant growth control in boreal forests. Moreover, we show that earlier growing season onsets can compensate for warming-induced drought stress. Despite the phenotypic plasticity of Scots pines to adapt to warmer and drier conditions, we speculate that predicted climate change will likely exceed the species’ physiological tolerance in much of Eurasia’s forest-steppe by the end of the twenty-first century.

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This work was carried out with the support of Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation [FSRZ-2020-0014] and the Russian Science Foundation [Grant 18-74-10048]. We are indebted with E. Martínez for his assistance on field and samples preparation and with the  two National Parks and research station for allowing access to their territory. A previous version was revised by JM Olano. We thank to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which significantly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alberto Arzac.

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Communicated by Peter Annighoefer.

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Arzac, A., Tychkov, I., Rubtsov, A. et al. Phenological shifts compensate warming-induced drought stress in southern Siberian Scots pines. Eur J Forest Res 140, 1487–1498 (2021).

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