Quantifying local factors in medium-frequency trends of tree ring records: Case study in Canadian boreal forests

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Date Published:

Jul 10


Growth rings of a tree are simultaneously affected by various environmental constraints, including regional factors such as climate fluctuations and also local, gap-scale dynamics such as competition and stochastic mortality of neighbor trees. Although these local effects are often discarded by dendroclimatologists as random variation, the dendroecological trends may provide valuable information on past forest dynamics. Since dendroecological trends arising from local stand dynamics often have medium-term frequencies with persistence of several years to a few decades, it is Usually difficult to separate local, gap-scale forcings from regional, medium-frequency forcings such as El Nino Southern Oscillation or North Atlantic Oscillation. Moreover, conventional dendroecological practices have failed to analyze the continuously changing medium frequency trends. In this study, a continuous index of medium-frequency dendrochronological trends was developed, by generalizing previous analytical methods that evaluate relative changes using moving averages. This method was then tested against a tree ring dataset from a site with a known history of release and suppression due to a hurricane disturbance. To quantify the effects of local gap dynamics against the regional, often climatic effects, increments cores of black spruce (Picea mariana) were sampled from boreal forests in Saskatchewan, Canada, using a stratified sampling design. Assuming that regional forcings affect trees in the given stand homogeneously, the relative effect of stochastic heterogeneity within stand was quantified. The results closely agreed with conventional dendrochronological observations. In closed-canopy stands, stochastic local effects explained 12.9-35.4% of the variation in tree ring widths, because interactions between neighbor trees were likely to be intense. In open-canopy stands, on the other hand, the proportion of explained variance was 1.4-10.2%, reflecting the less-intense local tree interactions in low-density stands. These advancements in statistical analysis and study design will help ecologists and paleoclimatologists to objectively evaluate the effects of climate fluctuations, relative to the effects of local, ecological interactions. Moreover, forest managers can apply concepts of filtering medium-frequency trends to assess release and suppression caused by forest management practices, such as selective cutting and forest thinning. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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