We studied regional variation in growth-limiting factors and responses to climatic variability in subalpine forests by analyzing growth patterns for 28 tree-ring growth chronologies from subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.) stands in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains (Washington and Oregon, U.S.A.). Factor analysis identified four distinct time series of common growth patterns; the dominant growth pattern at any site varied with annual precipitation and temperature (elevation). Throughout much of the region, growth is negatively correlated with winter precipitation and spring snowpack depth, indicating that growth is limited primarily by short growing seasons. On the driest and warmest sites, growth is negatively correlated with previous summer temperature, suggesting that low summer soil moisture limits growth. Growth patterns in two regions were sensitive to climatic variability associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, apparently responding to low-frequency variation in spring snowpack and summer soil moisture (one negatively, one positively). This regional-scale analysis shows that subalpine fir growth in the Cascades and Olympics is limited by different climatic factors in different subregional climates. Climatea??growth relationships are similar to those for a co-occurring species, mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana (Bong.) Carri??re), suggesting broad biogeographic patterns of response to climatic variability and change by subalpine forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.
Additional publication details
Growth responses of subalpine fir to climatic variability in the Pacific Northwest