The response of vegetation to climate change is of special interest in regions where rapid warming is coupled with moisture deficit. This raises the question of the limits in plants’ acclimation ability and the consequent shifts of the vegetation cover. Radial growth dynamics and climatic response were studied in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris
L.), Siberian larch (Larix sibirica
Ledeb.), and silver birch (Betula pendula
Roth.) in the forest-steppe, and for Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila
L.) in the steppe of South Siberia, as indicators of vegetation state and dynamics. Climate–growth relationships were analyzed by the following two approaches: (1) correlations between tree-ring width chronologies and short-term moving climatic series, and (2) optimization of the parameters of the Vaganov–Shashkin tree growth simulation model to assess the ecophysiological characteristics of species. Regional warming was accompanied by a slower increase of the average moisture deficit, but not in the severity of droughts. In the forest-steppe, the trees demonstrated stable growth and responded to the May–July climate. In the steppe, elm was limited by moisture deficit in May–beginning of June, during the peak water deficit. The forest-steppe stands were apparently acclimated successfully to the current climatic trends. It seems that elm was able to counter the water deficit, likely through its capacity to regulate transpiration by the stomatal morphology and xylem structure, using most of the stem as a water reservoir; earlier onset; and high growth rate, and these physiological traits may provide advantages to this species, leading to its expansion in steppes.
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