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Competition, Climate, and Size Effects on Radial Growth in an Old-Growth Hemlock Forest

The Jones Center at Ichauway, Newton, GA 39870, USA
Department of Biological Sciences, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435, USA
NOAA climate prediction center/Innovim, College Park, MD 20740, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(1), 52;
Received: 22 November 2019 / Revised: 20 December 2019 / Accepted: 28 December 2019 / Published: 31 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Radial Tree-Ring Traits Variation in Relation to Climate Factors)
Research Highlights: We applied neighborhood and dendro-ecological methods in a stand with a 33-year record of forest dynamics, finding that growth will decrease for several species under predicted climate trends. Background and Objectives: Conventional tree-ring analysis removes the influence of competition and size on growth, precluding assessment of the relative influence of these factors. An old-growth eastern hemlock forest in east–central New York was mapped in 1978 and was measured at eight-year intervals since then. Our objective was to use these data to examine the influence of climate, neighborhood, and tree size on radial growth. Materials and Methods: We evaluated an array of climatic indices to find which ones had the strongest influence on radial growth from increment cores of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis L.), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.). We used the strongest climatic indices in combination with neighborhood and target-tree size information to create growth models for the three tree species. Results: Size accounted for 2% to 21% of observed growth; the shade-tolerant sugar maple and eastern hemlock grew fastest when large, but the mid-tolerant yellow birch grew fastest when small. Competition accounted for 9% to 21% of growth; conifers had a weaker competitive effect than deciduous trees, and eastern hemlock was less sensitive to competition than sugar maple and yellow birch. Climate accounted for only 2% of growth variation; eastern hemlock showed a positive response to warming climate trends, but yellow birch and sugar maple showed negative responses. Conclusions: Predicted climate trends are likely to result in decreased growth of sugar maple and yellow birch, and the sensitivity of these species to competition suggests the effect will be exacerbated when they grow in crowded conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: dendroecology; maximum likelihood; northern hardwood; neighborhood method; tree ring dendroecology; maximum likelihood; northern hardwood; neighborhood method; tree ring
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Bigelow, S.W.; Runkle, J.R.; Oswald, E.M. Competition, Climate, and Size Effects on Radial Growth in an Old-Growth Hemlock Forest. Forests 2020, 11, 52.

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