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New Phytol. 2006;170(4):861-71.

Long-term change in the sensitivity of tree-ring growth to climate forcing in Larix decidua.

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Università degli Studi di Padova, Dip. TeSAF, Treeline Ecology Research Unit, Agripolis, I-35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy.


Tree rings are widely used long-term proxy data which, if combined with long-term instrumental climate records, can provide excellent information on global climate variability. This research aimed to determine whether interannual climate-growth responses in Alpine treeline forests are stationary over time. We used tree-ring width chronologies of Larix decidua (European larch) from 17 sites and monthly temperatures and precipitation data for the period 1800-1999. Climate-growth relationships were assessed with correlation and response functions, and their stationarity and consistency over time were measured using moving correlation. Tree-ring chronologies showed similar interannual variations over the last two centuries, suggesting that the same climatic factors synchronously limited growth at most sites. The most sensitive variables showed significant transient responses varying within the time period, indicating a possible deviation from the uniformitarian principle applied to dendroclimatology. If these findings are confirmed in future studies on other species and in other regions, we suggest that time-dependent variables should be taken into account to avoid overestimation of treeline advance, future forest carbon storage in temperature-limited environments and inaccurate reconstruction of past climate variability.

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