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Shifts of demography and growth in limber pine forests of the Great Basin, USA, across 4000 yr of climate variability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018

Constance I. Millar*
Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, California94710, USA
David A. Charlet
College of Southern Nevada, Department of Biology, 700 College Drive, Henderson, Nevada89002, USA
Diane L. Delany
Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, California94710, USA
John C. King
Lone Pine Research, 2604 Westridge Drive, Bozeman, Montana59715, USA
Robert D. Westfall
Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, California94710, USA
*Corresponding author at: Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, California 94710, USA. E-mail address: (C.I. Millar).


Annually dated tree-rings of 509 live and deadwood limber pine (Pinus flexilis) samples from the semi-arid Wassuk Range, Nevada, yielded a 3996-yr record extending from 1983 BC to AD 2013. Correlations of radial growth with climate were positive for water relations and negative for summer temperatures. Long-term trends of ring-width corresponded to climate variability documented from other proxies, including low growth during the Late Holocene Dry Period and Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and elevated growth during cool, wet periods of the Neoglacial and Little Ice Age. Spline fit of the data indicated that growth decrease in the last 20 years was second lowest on record, surpassed by lowest growth at 20 BC—AD 150. Demographics of limber pine by aspect and elevation were not strongly related to long-term climate dynamics, except in the case of extirpations on all but north aspects at the end of the MCA. Pines occurred persistently on north aspects, where a continuous record existed to present. Elevation shifts were not obvious on any aspect, and no evidence existed for migration above current treeline. Non-climatic factors appear to interact with climate to make north slopes refugial for upland pines in semi-arid regions across four millennia.

Research Article
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2018 

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