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Tree-ring investigations into changing climatic responses of yellow-cedar, Glacier Bay, Alaska

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Yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis (D. Don) Ă–rsted ex D.P. Little) is in a century-long decline coinciding with the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA). The leading hypothesis explaining this decline is a decrease in insulating snowpack due to warming and increased susceptibility to damaging frosts in the root zone. A ring-width series from yellow-cedar on Excursion Ridge (260 m a.s.l.) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, and another from trees on Pleasant Island (150 m a.s.l.) in the Tongass National Forest in Icy Strait were compared with regional monthly temperature and precipitation data from Sitka, Alaska, to investigate the changing growth response to temperature at these sites. Comparisons with monthly temperatures from 1832 to 1876 during the end of the Little Ice Age show that the high-elevation Excursion Ridge and the low-elevation Pleasant Island sites strongly favored warmer January through July temperatures. Both tree populations have markedly changed their response from a positive to a strong negative correlation with January through July temperatures since 1950. This strong negative response to warming by the yellow-cedar together with a positive relationship with total March and April precipitation suggests that these yellow-cedar sites may be susceptible to decline. Furthermore, these analyses are consistent with the hypothesis that the yellow-cedar decline is linked to decreased snowpack.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 1189 Beall Ave, Wooster, OH 44691, USA. 2: Tree Ring Lab, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY 10964, USA. 3: Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab, 72 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.

Publication date: April 12, 2012

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