Research ArticleECOLOGY

Twentieth century redistribution in climatic drivers of global tree growth

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Science Advances  16 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaat4313
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4313


Energy and water limitations of tree growth remain insufficiently understood at large spatiotemporal scales, hindering model representation of interannual or longer-term ecosystem processes. By assessing and statistically scaling the climatic drivers from 2710 tree-ring sites, we identified the boreal and temperate land areas where tree growth during 1930–1960 CE responded positively to temperature (20.8 ± 3.7 Mio km2; 25.9 ± 4.6%), precipitation (77.5 ± 3.3 Mio km2; 96.4 ± 4.1%), and other parameters. The spatial manifestation of this climate response is determined by latitudinal and altitudinal temperature gradients, indicating that warming leads to geographic shifts in growth limitations. We observed a significant (P < 0.001) decrease in temperature response at cold-dry sites between 1930–1960 and 1960–1990 CE, and the total temperature-limited area shrunk by −8.7 ± 0.6 Mio km2. Simultaneously, trees became more limited by atmospheric water demand almost worldwide. These changes occurred under mild warming, and we expect that continued climate change will trigger a major redistribution in growth responses to climate.

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