Forecasts of climate change for the Pacific northwestern United States predict warmer temperatures, increased winter precipitation, and drier summers. Prediction of forest growth responses to these climate fluctuations requires identification of climatic variables limiting tree growth, particularly at limits of free species distributions. We addressed this problem at the pine-woodland ecotone using tree-ring data for western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis var. occidentalis Hook.) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Loud.) from southern Oregon. Annual growth chronologies for 1950-2000 were developed for each species at 17 locations. Correlation and linear regression of climate-growth relationships revealed that radial growth in both species is highly dependent on October-June precipitation events that recharge growing season soil water. Mean annual radial growth for the nine driest years suggests that annual growth in both species is more sensitive to drought at lower elevations and sites with steeper slopes and sandy or rocky soils. Future increases in winter precipitation could increase productivity in both species at the pine-woodland ecotone. Growth responses, however, will also likely vary across landscape features, and our findings suggest that heightened sensitivity to future drought periods and increased temperatures in the two species will predominantly occur at lower elevation sites with poor water-holding capacities. ?? 2008 NRC.
Additional publication details
Western juniper and ponderosa pine ecotonal climate-growth relationships across landscape gradients in southern Oregon