Radial Growth of Qilian Juniper on the Northeast Tibetan Plateau and Potential Climate Associations

Chun Qin, Bao Yang, Thomas M. Melvin, Zexin Fan, Yan Zhao, Keith R. Briffa

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Abstract

There is controversy regarding the limiting climatic factor for tree radial growth at the alpine treeline on the northeastern Tibetan Plateau. In this study, we collected 594 increment cores from 331 trees, grouped within four altitude belts spanning the range 3550 to 4020 m.a.s.l. on a single hillside. We have developed four equivalent ring-width chronologies and shown that there are no significant differences in their growth-climate responses during 1956 to 2011 or in their longer-term growth patterns during the period AD 1110–2011. The main climate influence on radial growth is shown to be precipitation variability. Missing ring analysis shows that tree radial growth at the uppermost treeline location is more sensitive to climate variation than that at other elevations, and poor tree radial growth is particularly linked to the occurrence of serious drought events. Hence water limitation, rather than temperature stress, plays the pivotal role in controlling the radial growth of Sabina przewalskii Kom. at the treeline in this region. This finding contradicts any generalisation that tree-ring chronologies from high-elevation treeline environments are mostly indicators of temperature changes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere79362
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2013

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