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Consistent negative temperature sensitivity and positive influence of precipitation on growth of floodplain Picea glauca in Interior Alaska

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This paper calibrates climate controls over radial growth of floodplain white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) and examines whether growth in these populations responds similarly to climate as upland trees in Interior Alaska. Floodplain white spruce trees hold previously unrecognized potential for long-term climate reconstruction because they are the source of driftwood that becomes frozen in coastal deposits, where archeological timbers and beach logs represent well-preserved datable material. We compared ring width chronologies for 135 trees in six stands on the Yukon Flats and Tanana River with temperature and precipitation at Fairbanks from 1912–2001. Our sample contains a stable common signal representing a strong negative relationship between summer temperature and tree growth. We developed a floodplain temperature index (FPTI), which explains half of the variability of the composite chronology, and a supplemental precipitation index (SPI) based on correlation of monthly precipitation with the residual of the temperature-based prediction of growth. We then combined FPTI and SPI into a climate favorability index (CFI) in which above-normal precipitation partially compensates for temperature-induced drought reduction of growth and vice versa. CFI and growth have been particularly low since 1969. Our results provide a basis for building longer chronologies based on archeological wood and for projecting future growth.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 757140, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7200, USA. 2: UMR8096 CNRS/Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Maison R. Ginouvès Archéologie-Ethnologie, 21 allée de l’Université, 92023 Nanterre CEDEX, France.

Publication date: March 15, 2012

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