Height-growth response to climatic changes differs among populations of Douglas-fir: a novel analysis of historic data


  • Corresponding Editor (ad hoc): N. N. Barger.


Projected climate change will affect existing forests, as substantial changes are predicted to occur during their life spans. Species that have ample intraspecific genetic differentiation, such as Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco), are expected to display population-specific growth responses to climate change. Using a mixed-effects modeling approach, we describe three-year height (HT) growth response to changes in climate of interior Douglas-fir populations. We incorporate climate information at the population level, yielding a model that is specific to both species and population. We use data from provenance tests from previous studies that comprised 236 populations from Idaho, Montana, and eastern Washington, USA. The most sensitive indicator of climate was the mean temperature of the coldest month. Population maximum HT and HT growth response to changes in climate were dependent on seed source climate. All populations had optimum HT growth when transferred to climates with warmer winters; those originating in sites with the warmest winters were taller across sites and had highest HT growth at transfer distances closest to zero; those from colder climates were shortest and had optimum HT growth when transferred the farthest. Although this differential response damped the height growth differences among populations, cold-climate populations still achieved their maximum growth at lower temperatures than warm-climate populations. The results highlight the relevance of understanding climate change impacts at the population level, particularly in a species with ample genetic variation among populations.