Journal Article

Sensitivity of ring growth and carbon allocation to climatic variation vary within ponderosa pine trees

Lucy P. Kerhoulas and Jeffrey M. Kane

Edited by Marc Abrams

in Tree Physiology

Volume 32, issue 1, pages 14-23
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online November 2011 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI:
Sensitivity of ring growth and carbon allocation to climatic variation vary within ponderosa pine trees

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Most dendrochronological studies focus on cores sampled from standard positions (main stem, breast height), yet vertical gradients in hydraulic constraints and priorities for carbon allocation may contribute to different growth sensitivities with position. Using cores taken from five positions (coarse roots, breast height, base of live crown, mid-crown branch and treetop), we investigated how radial growth sensitivity to climate over the period of 1895–2008 varies by position within 36 large ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa Dougl.) in northern Arizona. The climate parameters investigated were Palmer Drought Severity Index, water year and monsoon precipitation, maximum annual temperature, minimum annual temperature and average annual temperature. For each study tree, we generated Pearson correlation coefficients between ring width indices from each position and six climate parameters. We also investigated whether the number of missing rings differed among positions and bole heights. We found that tree density did not significantly influence climatic sensitivity to any of the climate parameters investigated at any of the sample positions. Results from three types of analyses suggest that climatic sensitivity of tree growth varied with position height: (i) correlations of radial growth and climate variables consistently increased with height; (ii) model strength based on Akaike's information criterion increased with height, where treetop growth consistently had the highest sensitivity and coarse roots the lowest sensitivity to each climatic parameter; and (iii) the correlation between bole ring width indices decreased with distance between positions. We speculate that increased sensitivity to climate at higher positions is related to hydraulic limitation because higher positions experience greater xylem tensions due to gravitational effects that render these positions more sensitive to climatic stresses. The low sensitivity of root growth to all climatic variables measured suggests that tree carbon allocation to coarse roots is independent of annual climate variability. The greater number of missing rings in branches highlights the fact that canopy development is a low priority for carbon allocation during poor growing conditions.

Keywords: Arizona; climate sensitivity; missing rings; roots; tree rings

Journal Article.  6150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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