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Response of high-elevation limber pine (Pinus flexilis) to multiyear droughts and 20th-century warming, Sierra Nevada, California, USA

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Abstract:

Limber pine (Pinus flexilis James) stands along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada, California, experienced significant mortality from 1985 to 1995 during a period of sustained low precipitation and high temperature. The stands differ from old-growth limber pine forests in being dense, young, more even-aged, and located in warmer, drier microclimates. Tree growth showed high interannual variability. Relative to live trees, dead trees over their lifetimes had higher series sensitivity, grew more variably, and had lower growth. Although droughts recurred during the 20th century, tree mortality occurred only in the late 1980s. Significant correlations and interactions of growth and mortality dates with temperature and precipitation indicate that conditions of warmth plus sustained drought increased the likelihood of mortality in the 1985–1995 interval. This resembles a global-change-type drought, where warming combined with drought was an initial stress, trees were further weakened by dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum (A. Nels. ex Rydb.) A. Nels.), and proximally killed by mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins). However, the thinning effect of the drought-related mortality appears to have promoted resilience and improved near-term health of these stands, which suffered no additional mortality in the subsequent 1999–2004 drought.

Les peuplements de pin flexible (Pinus flexilis James) situés le long de l’escarpement est de la Sierra Nevada, en Californie, ont subi une mortalité appréciable de 1985 à 1995 durant une période marquée par des conditions soutenues de faible précipitation et de température élevée. Ces peuplements diffèrent des vieilles forêts de pin flexible: ils sont denses, jeunes, plutôt équiennes et sous l’influence d’un microclimat plus chaud et plus sec. La croissance des arbres a fortement varié d’une année à l’autre. Comparativement aux arbres vivants, les arbres morts avaient, sur l’ensemble de leur vie, des séries plus sensibles ainsi qu’une croissance plus variable et plus faible. Bien que les sécheresses se soient succédées au cours du 20e siècle, la mortalité est survenue seulement à la fin des années 1980. Des corrélations et interactions significatives entre la croissance et le moment où est survenue la mortalité avec la température et la précipitation indiquent que des conditions de chaleur et de sécheresse prolongées ont augmenté les chances de mortalité durant l’intervalle de 1985–1995. Cela ressemble à une sécheresse typique d’un changement global où un réchauffement combiné à la sécheresse a causé un stress initial. Les arbres furent ensuite davantage affaiblis par le faux-gui (Arceuthobium cyanocarpum (A. Nels. ex Rydb.) A. Nels.) et tués peu après par le dendroctone du pin ponderosa (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins). L’éclaircie causée par la mortalité reliée à la sécheresse apparaît cependant avoir favorisé la résilience et amélioré la santé à court terme de ces peuplements qui n’ont subi aucune mortalité additionnelle lors de la sécheresse de 1999–2004.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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