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Growth-climate relationships across topographic gradients in the northern Great Lakes

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Dymond, S.F.; D'Amato, A.W.; Kolka, Randy; Bolstad, P.V.; Sebestyen, Stephen; Bradford, J.B.

Year Published



Ecohydrology. 9(6): 918-929.


Climatic conditions exert important control over the growth, productivity, and distribution of forests, and characterizing these relationships is essential for understanding how forest ecosystems will respond to climate change. We used dendrochronological methods to develop climate–growth relationships for two dominant species, Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) and Pinus resinosa (red pine), in the upper Great Lakes region to understand how climate and water availability influence annual forest productivity. Trees were sampled along a topographic gradient at the Marcell Experimental Forest (Minnesota, USA) to assess growth response to variations in temperature and different water availability metrics (precipitation, potential evapotranspiration (PET), cumulative moisture index (CMI), and soil water storage). Climatic variables were able to explain 33–58% of the variation in annual growth (as measured by ring-width increment) for quaking aspen and 37–74% of the variation for red pine. Climate–growth relationships were influenced by topography for quaking aspen but not for red pine. Annual ring growth for quaking aspen decreased with June CMI on ridges, decreased with temperature in the November prior to the growing season on sideslopes, and decreased with June PET on toeslopes. Red pine growth increased with increasing July PET across all topographic positions. These results indicate the sensitivity of both quaking aspen and red pine to local climate and show several vulnerabilities of these species to shifts in water supply and temperature because of climate change.


dendrochronology; quaking aspen; red pine; PET; soil moisture


Dymond, S.F.; D'Amato, A.W.; Kolka, R K.; Bolstad, P.V.; Sebestyen, S.D.; Bradford, J.B. 2016. Growth-climate relationships across topographic gradients in the northern Great Lakes. Ecohydrology. 9(6): 918-929.

Last updated on: September 15, 2016