Climate and Ecological Disturbance Analysis of Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Trees, Forests, and People
By: , and 



The effects of anthropogenic climate change are apparent in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), USA, with forest die-off, insect outbreaks, and wildfires impacting forest ecosystems. A long-term perspective would enable assessment of the historical range of variability in forest ecosystems and better determination of recent forest dynamics and historical thresholds. The objectives of this study were to (1) develop tree-ring chronologies for Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir growing at the study location, (2) correlate the annual ring widths of each species to monthly climate variables, (3) examine the instrumental climate data for regimes shifts in the mean state of variables, and (4) determine when ecological disturbances occurred through a quantification of growth releases. Finally, we discuss both climate-growth relationships and growth releases in the context of climate regime shifts and known forest disturbances. Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir showed some similar climate responses using moving correlation analysis including negative correlations between ring width and June – August current year temperature and previous growing season temperature. Regime shift analysis indicated significant (p < 0.05) shifts in minimum and maximum GYE temperature in the latter half of the 20th century. Disturbance analysis indicated that both tree species responded to wildfire and insect outbreak events with growth releases in up to 25% of the trees. Disentangling the influence of climate regime shifts and forest disturbances on the climate-growth relationships can be difficult because climate and forest disturbances are intricately linked. Our evidence indicates that regime shifts in monthly climate variables and forest disturbances as recorded by growth releases can influence the ring width response to climate over time. Trees are key to providing a long-term perspective on climate and ecological health across the GYE because they integrate both climate and ecology in their annual ring widths.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate and Ecological Disturbance Analysis of Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Series title Trees, Forests, and People
DOI 10.1016/j.tfp.2020.100053
Volume 3
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Description 100053, 9 p.
Country United States
State Wyoming
Other Geospatial Greater Yellowstone area
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