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Keywords:

  • boreal forests;
  • dendroclimatology;
  • growth modeling;
  • mixed models

Abstract

In this paper, we present a new approach, based on a mixed model procedure, to quantify the tree-ring-based growth-climate relationship of trembling aspen along a latitudinal gradient from 46 to 54 °N in eastern Canada. This approach allows breaking down the growth response into general intersite and local climatic responses, and analyzing variations of absolute ring width as well as interannual variations in tree growth. The final model also integrates nonclimatic variables such as soil characteristics and the occurrence of insect outbreaks into the growth predictions. Tree level random effects on growth were important as intercepts but were nonsignificant for the climatic variables, indicating that a single climate–growth relationship was justified in our case. The response of tree growth to climate showed, however, a strong dependence on the spatial scale at which the analysis was performed. Intersite variations in tree growth were mostly dependent on variations in the thermal heat sum, a variable that showed low interannual and high intersite variation. When variation for a single site was analyzed, other variables showed up to be important while the heat sum was unimportant. Finally, future growth under six different climate change scenarios was simulated in order to study the potential impact of climate change. Results suggest only moderate growth increases in the northern portion of the gradient and a growth decrease in the southern portion under future climatic conditions.