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We explored spatial patterns of low-frequency variability in radial tree growth among western North American conifer species and identified predictors of the variability in these patterns. Using 185 sites from the International Tree-Ring Data Bank, each of which contained 10a??60 raw ring-width series, we rebuilt two chronologies for each site, using two conservative methods designed to retain any low-frequency variability associated with recent environmental change. We used factor analysis to identify regional low-frequency patterns in site chronologies and estimated the slope of the growth trend since 1850 at each site from a combination of linear regression and time-series techniques. This slope was the response variable in a regression-tree model to predict the effects of environmental gradients and species-level differences on growth trends. Growth patterns at 27 sites from the American Southwest were consistent with quasi-periodic patterns of drought. Either 12 or 32 of the 185 sites demonstrated patterns of increasing growth between 1850 and 1980 A.D., depending on the standardization technique used. Pronounced growth increases were associated with high-elevation sites (above 3000 m) and high-latitude sites in maritime climates. Future research focused on these high-elevation and high-latitude sites should address the precise mechanisms responsible for increased 20th century growth.
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Recent growth of conifer species of western North America: Assessing spatial patterns of radial growth trends