Climate Control on Tree Growth at the Upper and Lower Treelines: A Case Study in the Qilian Mountains, Tibetan Plateau

Bao Yang, Minhui He, Thomas M. Melvin, Yan Zhao, Keith R. Briffa, Lee Newsom (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is generally hypothesized that tree growth at the upper treeline is normally controlled by temperature while that at the lower treeline is precipitation limited. However, uniform patterns of inter-annual ring-width variations along altitudinal gradients are also observed in some situations. How changing elevation influences tree growth in the cold and arid Qilian Mountains, on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, is of considerable interest because of the sensitivity of the region’s local climate to different atmospheric circulation patterns. Here, a network of four Qilian juniper (Sabina przewalskii Kom.) ring-width chronologies was developed from trees distributed on a typical mountain slope at elevations ranging from 3000 to 3520 m above sea level (a.s.l.). The statistical characteristics of the four tree-ring chronologies show no significant correlation with increasing elevation. All the sampled tree growth was controlled by a common climatic signal (local precipitation) across the investigated altitudinal gradient (520 m). During the common reliable period, covering the past 450 years, the four chronologies have exhibited coherent growth patterns in both the high- and low-frequency domains. These results contradict the notion of contrasting climate growth controls at higher and lower elevations, and specifically the assumption that inter-annual tree-growth variability is controlled by temperature at the upper treeline. It should be stressed that these results relate to the relatively arid conditions at the sampling sites in the Qilian Mountains.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere69065
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2013

Cite this