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Open AccessArticle

Dendroclimatic Assessment of Ponderosa Pine Radial Growth along Elevational Transects in Western Montana, U.S.A.

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Department of Geography, Environment, and Society, University of Minnesota, 267 19th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
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Department of Geography and Planning, Appalachian State University, P.O. Box 32066, Boone, NC 28608, USA
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Department of Geography, Environment, and Sustainability, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 237 Graham Building P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA
4
Department of Geography, Indiana University, 701 E Kirkwood Ave, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(12), 1094; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10121094
Received: 11 November 2019 / Accepted: 25 November 2019 / Published: 2 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Alpine and Polar Treelines in a Changing Environment)
Ponderosa pine (PP) is the most common and widely distributed pine species in the western United States, spanning from southern Canada to the United States–Mexico border. PP can be found growing between sea level and 3000 meters elevation making them an ideal species to assess the effects of changing climatic conditions at a variety of elevations. Here we compare PP standardized and raw growth responses to climate conditions along an elevational transect spanning 1000 meters in western Montana, U.S.A., a region that experienced a 20th century warming trend and is expected to incur much warmer (3.1–4.5 °C) and slightly drier summers (~0.3 cm decrease per month) by the end on the 21st century. Specifically, we assess if there are climate/growth differences based on relative (i.e., site-specific) and absolute (i.e., combined sites) elevation between groups of trees growing in different elevational classes. We find that values of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI) in July are most strongly related to radial growth and that within-site elevation differences are a poor predictor of the response of PP to either wet or dry climatic conditions (i.e., years with above or below average July PDSI values). These results suggest that any generalization that stands of PP occurring at their elevational margins are most vulnerable to changing climatic may not be operative at these sites in western Montana. Our results show that when using standardized ring widths, PP growing at the lowest and highest elevations within western Montana exhibit differential growth during extreme climatological conditions with lower-elevation trees outperforming higher-elevation trees during dry years and vice versa during wet years. View Full-Text
Keywords: dendroclimatology; elevational gradients; drought; western Montana; Rocky Mountains dendroclimatology; elevational gradients; drought; western Montana; Rocky Mountains
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Montpellier, E.E.; Soulé, P.T.; Knapp, P.A.; Maxwell, J.T. Dendroclimatic Assessment of Ponderosa Pine Radial Growth along Elevational Transects in Western Montana, U.S.A.. Forests 2019, 10, 1094.

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