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THE DENDROCLIMATOLOGICAL POTENTIAL OF AN ALPINE SHRUB, CASSIOPE MERTENSIANA, FROM MOUNT RAINIER, WA, USA

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ABSTRACT

The application of dendrochronological techniques to shrubs found in arctic and alpine plant communities is opening previously untapped regions to the exploration of plant-climate ecological relationships and climate reconstruction. In this pilot study, we present growth (1963–2004), reproduction (1963–2004), and stable carbon isotope ratio (1975–2004) chronologies for Cassiope mertensiana from a subalpine site in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA. Based on simple linear correlation analysis, positive correlations characterize plant growth and previous year mean maximum temperature in April and June, suggesting the influence of temperature on snowpack and, in turn, on growing season length, plant and soil insulation, and nutrient and moisture availability. Plant growth and reproduction are significantly correlated with current year July mean maximum temperature and total precipitation, indicating the importance of a warm and extended growing season for optimal plant development. Using step-wise multiple linear regression analysis, we developed a preliminary calibration model for July mean maximum temperature (R = 0.63), extending over the 1974–2004 time period. This archive has the potential to elucidate multi-scale, spatially-explicit, ecological and climatic information for alpine ecosystems situated along a north-south transect from the southern Yukon to the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

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