Author(s): Yang Liu,
Published in: Scientific Reports (May 2018)
Evapotranspiration and favorable growing degree-days are key to tree height growth and ecosystem functioning: Meta-analyses of Pacific Northwest historical data
While temperature and precipitation comprise important ecological filtering for native ranges of forest trees and are predisposing factors underlying forest ecosystem dynamics, the extent and severity of drought raises reasonable concerns for carbon storage and species diversity. Based on historical data from common garden experiments across the Pacific Northwest region, we developed non-linear niche models for height-growth trajectories of conifer trees at the sapling stage using annual or seasonal climatic variables. The correlations between virtual tree height for each locality and ecosystem functions were respectively assessed. Best-fitted models were composed of two distinct components: evapotranspiration and the degree-days disparity for temperature regimes between 5 °C and 18 °C (effective temperature sum and growth temperature, respectively). Tree height prediction for adaptive generalists (e.g., Pinus monticola, Thuja plicata) had smaller residuals than for specialists (e.g., Pinus contorta, Pseudotsuga menziesii), albeit a potential confounding factor – tree age. Discernably, there were linearly positive patterns between tree height growth and ecosystem functions (productivity, biomass and species diversity). Additionally, there was a minor effect of tree diversity on height growth in coniferous forests. This study uncovers the implication of key ecological filtering and increases our integrated understanding of how environmental cues affect tree stand growth, species dominance and ecosystem functions.