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Tree Physiol. 2009 Nov;29(11):1317-28. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpp068. Epub 2009 Sep 4.

Age class, longevity and growth rate relationships: protracted growth increases in old trees in the eastern United States.

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  • 1School of Forest Resources, Forest Resources Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. sej141@psu.edu


This study uses data from the International Tree-Ring Data Bank website and tree cores collected in the field to explore growth rate (basal area increment, BAI) relationships across age classes (from young to old) for eight tree species in the eastern US. These species represent a variety of ecological traits and include those in the genera Populus, Quercus, Pinus, Tsuga and Nyssa. We found that most trees in all age classes and species exhibit an increasing BAI throughout their lives. This is particularly unusual for trees in the older age classes that we expected to have declining growth in the later years, as predicted by physiological growth models. There exists an inverse relationship between growth rate and increasing age class. The oldest trees within each species have consistently slow growth throughout their lives, implying an inverse relationship between growth rate and longevity. Younger trees (< 60 years of age) within each species are consistently growing faster than the older trees when they are of the same age resulting from a higher proportion of fast-growing trees in these young age classes. Slow, but increasing, BAI in the oldest trees in recent decades is a continuation of their growth pattern established in previous centuries. The fact that they have not shown a decreasing growth rate in their old age contradicts physiological growth models and may be related to the stimulatory effects of global change phenomenon (climate and land-use history).

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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