Climatic Change

, Volume 138, Issue 1–2, pp 127–142 | Cite as

On the declining relationship between tree growth and climate in the Midwest United States: the fading drought signal

  • Justin T. Maxwell
  • Grant L. Harley
  • Scott M. Robeson
Article

Abstract

Tree rings are widely considered to be a reliable proxy record of variations in climate and soil moisture. Here, using data from the Midwest United States (US), we provide documentation of a deteriorating relationship between radial tree growth and drought that is consistent across multiple species and locations. We find that traditional methods for drought reconstructions produce models that have rapidly declining validation statistics in recent decades. Split-sample calibration-verification that uses the first and second halves of the record can be problematic, as those two samples may not represent a sufficiently wide range of soil moisture conditions. To investigate this problem, we develop a randomized validation procedure that generates an empirical distribution of calibration and validation statistics. We place validation statistics derived from traditional methods in the generated distribution and compare them to a stratified approach that ensures each calibration model is composed of a sample that includes both dry and wet years. We find that the deteriorating relationship between tree growth and soil moisture is an artifact of the absence of drought over an extended period of time. A model that forces each calibration period to contain extreme drought years is statistically validated.. Nonetheless, if the current pluvial continues in the Midwest US, the linear relationship between tree rings and soil moisture will likely continue to deteriorate to the point where tree rings in the region will have a reduced ability to estimate past drought conditions.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1720_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.3 mb)
ESM 1Supplemental Material (PDF 1.30 mb)

References

  1. Allen CD, Macalady AK, Chenchouni H, Bachelet D, McDowell N, Vennetier M, Kitzberger T, Rigling A, Breshears DD, Hogg ET, Gonzalez P (2010) A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. For Ecol Manag 259:660–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barber VA, Juday GP, Finney BP (2000) Reduced growth of Alaskan white spruce in the twentieth century from temperature-induced drought stress. Nature 405:668–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biondi F, Waikul K (2004) DENDROCLIM2002: a C++ program for statistical calibration of climate signals in tree-ring chronologies. Comput Geosci 30:303–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brzostek ER, Dragoni D, Schmid HP, Rahman AF, Sims D, Wayson CA, Johnson DJ, Phillips RP (2014) Chronic water stress reduces tree growth and the carbon sink of deciduous hardwood forests. Glob Chang Biol 20:2531–2539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Büntgen U, Frank D, Wilson R, Carrer M, Urbinati C, Esper J (2008) Testing for tree-ring divergence in the European Alps. Glob Chang Biol 14:2443–2453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Choat B, Jansen S, Brodribb TJ, Cochard H, et al. (2012) Global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought. Nature 491:752–755Google Scholar
  7. Cook ER, Krusic PJ (2004) North American summer PDSI reconstructions. IGBP PAGES/World Data Center for Paleoclimatology Data Contribution Series, 45Google Scholar
  8. Cook ER, Peters K (1981) The smoothing spline: a new approach to standardizing forest interior tree-ring width series for dendroclimatic studies. Tree-Ring Bull 41:45–53Google Scholar
  9. Cook ER, Meko DM, Stahle DW, Cleaveland MK (1999) Drought reconstructions for the continental United States. J Clim 12:1145–1162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook ER, Anchukaitis KJ, Buckley BM, D’Arrigo RD, Jacoby GC, Wright WE (2010) Asian monsoon failure and megadrought during the last millennium. Science 328:486–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Arrigo RD, Kaufmann RK, Davi N, Jacoby GC, Laskowski C, Myneni RB, Cherubini P (2004) Thresholds for warming-induced growth decline at elevational tree line in the Yukon territory, Canada. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 18:GB3021Google Scholar
  12. Dai A (2013) Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models. Nat Clim Chang 3:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Grandpré L, Tardif JC, Hessl A, Pederson N, Conciatori F, Green TR, Oyunsanaa B, Baatarbileg N (2011) Seasonal shift in the climate responses of Pinus sibirica, Pinus sylvestris, and Larix sibirica trees from semi-arid, north-central Mongolia. Can J For Res 41:1242–1255Google Scholar
  14. Driscoll WW, Wiles GC, D’Arrigo RD, Wilmking M (2005) Divergent tree growth response to recent climatic warming, Lake Clark National Park and preserve, Alaska. Geophys Res Lett 32:L20703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Esper J, Frank D (2009) Divergence pitfalls in tree-ring research. Clim Chang 94:261–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ford TW (2014) Precipitation anomalies in eastern-Central Iowa from 1640–present. J Hydrol 519:918–924CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fritts HC (1976) Tree rings and climate. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoerling M, Eischeid J, Kumar A, Leung R, Mariotti A, Mo K, Schubert S, Seager R (2014) Causes and predictability of the 2012 Great Plains drought. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 95:269–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jacoby GC, D’Arrigo RD (1995) Tree ring width and density evidence of climatic and potential forest change in Alaska. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 9:227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacoby GC, Lovelius NV, Shumilov OI, Raspopov OM, Karbainov JM, Frank DC (2000) Long-term temperature trends and tree growth in the Taymir region of northern Siberia. Quat Res 53:312–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Klein T, Yakir D, Buchmann N, Grünzweig JM (2014) Towards an advanced assessment of the hydrological vulnerability of forests to climate change-induced drought. New Phytol 201:712–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li B, Nychka DW, Ammann CM (2007) The “Hockey Stick” and the 1990s: a statistical perspective on reconstructing hemispheric temperatures. Tellus Ser A 59:591–598. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.2007.00270.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lloyd AH, Bunn AG (2007) Responses of the circumpolar boreal forest to 20th century climate variability. Environ Res Lett 2:045013CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lloyd AH, Fastie CL (2002) Spatial and temporal variability in the growth and climate response of treeline trees in Alaska. Clim Chang 52:481–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mallya G, Zhao L, XC S, Niyogi D, Govindaraju RS (2013) 2012 Midwest drought in the United States. J Hydrol Eng 18:737–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manzoni S, Vico G, Katul G, Palmroth S, Jackson RB, Porporato A (2013) Hydraulic limits on maximum plant transpiration and the emergence of the safety–efficiency trade-off. New Phytol 198:169–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Martínez-Vilalta J, Poyatos R, Aguadé D, Retana J, Mencuccini M (2014) A new look at water transport regulation in plants. New Phytol 204:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maxwell JT (2016) The benefit of including rarely used species in dendroclimatic reconstructions: a case study using Juglans nigra in south-central Indiana. Tree-Ring Res, USAGoogle Scholar
  29. Maxwell RS, Hessl AE, Cook ER, Pederson N (2011) A multispecies tree ring reconstruction of Potomac River streamflow (950–2001). Water Resour Res 47:W05512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maxwell JT, Harley GL, Matheus TJ (2015) Dendroclimatic reconstructions from multiple co-occurring species: a case study from an old-growth deciduous forest in Indiana, USA. Int J Climatol 35:860–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Meko D (1997) Dendroclimatic reconstruction with time varying predictor subsets of tree indices. J Clim 10:687–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Melvin TM, Briffa KR (2008) A “signal-free” approach to dendroclimatic standardisation. Dendrochronologia 26:71–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mishra V, Cherkauer KA (2010) Retrospective droughts in the crop growing season: implications to corn and soybean yield in the Midwestern United States. Agric For Meteorol 150:1030–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nash J, Sutcliffe JV (1970) River flow forecasting through conceptual models part I—A discussion of principles. J Hydrol 10:282–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Palmer WC (1965) Meteorological Drought, Weather Bureau Research Paper No. 45. Washington, DC: US Department of CommerceGoogle Scholar
  36. Pederson N, Bell AR, Knight TA, et al. (2012) A long-term perspective on a modern drought in the American southeast. Environ Res Lett 7:014034CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pederson N, Bell AR, Cook ER, et al. (2013) Is an epic pluvial masking the water insecurity of the greater New York City region? J Clim 26:1339–1354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pederson N, Hessl AE, Baatarbileg N, Anchukaitis KJ, Di Cosmo N (2014) Pluvials, droughts, the Mongol empire, and modern Mongolia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:4375–4379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pisaric MF, Carey SK, Kokelj SV, Youngblut D (2007) Anomalous 20th century tree growth, Mackenzie Delta, northwest territories, Canada. Geophys Res Lett 34:L05714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Roman DT, Novick KA, Brzostek ER, Dragoni D, Rahman F, Phillips RP (2015) The role of isohydric and anisohydric species in determining ecosystem-scale response to severe drought. Oecologia 179:641–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saladyga T, Maxwell RS (2015) Temporal variability in climate response of eastern hemlock in the Central Appalachian Region. Southeast Geogr 55:143–163.Google Scholar
  42. Vicente-Serrano SM, Beguería S, López-Moreno JI (2010) A multiscalar drought index sensitive to global warming: the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index. J Clim 23:1696–1718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wahl ER, Smerdon JE (2012) Comparative performance of paleoclimate field and index reconstructions derived from climate proxies and noise-only predictors. Geophys Res Lett 39:L06703Google Scholar
  44. Wigley TL, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1984) On the average value of correlated time series, with application in dendroclimatology and hydrometeorology. J Clim Appl Meteorol 23:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wilhite DA, Svoboda MD, Hayes MJ (2007) Understanding the complex impacts of drought: a key to enhancing drought mitigation and preparedness. Water Resour Manag 21:763–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wilmking M, Juday GP, Barber VA, Zald HS (2004) Recent climate warming forces contrasting growth responses of white spruce at treeline in Alaska through temperature thresholds. Glob Chang Biol 10:1724–1736CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin T. Maxwell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Grant L. Harley
    • 3
  • Scott M. Robeson
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Tree-Ring Laboratory, Department of GeographyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  3. 3.Dendron Laboratory, Department of Geography and GeologyUniversity of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

Personalised recommendations