Tree rings provide early warning signals of jack pine mortality across a moisture gradient in the southern boreal forest

S. D. Mamet, Kwok Pan CHUN, J. M. Metsaranta, A. G. Barr, J. F. Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent declines in productivity and tree survival have been widely observed in boreal forests. We used early warning signals (EWS) in tree ring data to anticipate premature mortality in jack pine (Pinus banksiana) - an extensive and dominant species occurring across the moisture-limited southern boreal forest in North America. We sampled tree rings from 113 living and 84 dead trees in three soil moisture regimes (subxeric, submesic, subhygric) in central Saskatchewan, Canada. We reconstructed annual increments of tree basal area to investigate (1) whether we could detect EWS related to mortality of individual trees, and (2) how water availability and tree growth history may explain the mortality warning signs. EWS were evident as punctuated changes in growth patterns prior to transition to an alternative state of reduced growth before dying. This transition was likely triggered by a combination of severe drought and insect outbreak. Higher moisture availability associated with a soil moisture gradient did not appear to reduce tree sensitivity to stress-induced mortality. Our results suggest tree rings offer considerable potential for detecting critical transitions in tree growth, which are linked to premature mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number084021
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume10
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

User-Defined Keywords

  • basal area increments
  • dendroecology
  • disturbance
  • early warning signals
  • resilience
  • tree mortality
  • tree rings

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