Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Influence of snowfall and melt timing on tree growth in subarctic Eurasia

Abstract

The causes of a reduced sensitivity of high-latitude tree growth to variations in summer temperature for recent decades1,2, compared to earlier this century, are unknown. This sensitivity change is problematic, in that relationships between tree-ring properties and temperature are widely used for reconstructing past climate. Here we report an analysis of tree-ring and climate data from the forest–tundra zone, in combination with a mechanistic model of tree-ring growth, to argue that an increasing trend of winter precipitation over the past century in many subarctic regions3,4,5 led to delayed snow melt in these permafrost environments. As a result, the initiation of cambial activity (necessary for the formation of wood cells) has been delayed relative to the pre-1960 period in the Siberian subarctic. Since the early 1960s, less of the growth season has been during what had previously been the period of maximal growth sensitivity to temperature. This shift results not only in slower growth, but also in a reduced correlation between growth and temperature. Our results suggest that changes in winter precipitation should be considered in seeking explanations for observed changes in the timing of the ‘spring greening’ of high-latitude forests6, and should be taken into account in the study of the role of the Siberian subarctic forest in the global carbon cycle.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Location of sites and meteorological stations.
Figure 2: Correlation of the mean temperature of five consecutive days (‘pentads’) with tree-ring width indices for four sites near the northern timberline.
Figure 3: Meteorological time series.
Figure 4: Tree-ring width dynamics at three sites: (a), SOB; b, NOV; c, INP.

References

  1. Briffa, KR. et al. Reduced sensitivity of recent tree-growth to temperature at high northern latitudes. Nature 391, 678–682 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Briffa, K. R. et al. Trees tell of past climates: but are they speaking less clearly today? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 353, 65–73 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Findlay, B. F. et al. in Trends '93: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (eds Boden, T. A., Kiaser, D. P., Sepanski, R. J. & Stoss, F. W.) 800–828 (ORNL/CDIAC-65, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge Natl Lab., Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Groisman, P. Ya. & Easterling, D. R. in Trends '93: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (eds Boden, T. A., Kaiser, D. P., Sepanski, R. J. & Stoss, F. W.) 786–798 (ORNL/CDIAC-65, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge Natl Lab., Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Groisman, P. Ya., Kokpaeva, V. V., Belokrylova, T. A. & Karl, TR. in Trends '93: A Compendium of Data on Global Change (eds Boden, T. A., Kaiser, D. P., Sepanski, R. J. & Stoss, F. W.) 906–910 (ORNL/CDIAC-65, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge Natl Lab., Oak Ridge, Tennessee, (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Myneni, R. B., Keeling, C. D., Tucker, C. J., Asrar, G. & Nemani, R. R. Increased plant growth in the northern high latitudes from 1981 to 1991. Nature 386, 698–702 (1997).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Cook, E. R. & Kairiukstis, L. A. (eds) Methods of Dendrochronology. Application in Environmental Sciences (Kluwer, Dordrecht, (1990).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. Wilson, B. F. in The Formation of Wood in Forest Trees (ed. Zimmermann, M. H.) 19–36 (Academic, New York, (1964).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  9. Kandelaki, A. A. Larch wood formation on Taymir. Lesovedenie 6, 64–69 (1979). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Kandelaki, A. A. & Demyanov, V. A. Dynamics of tree ring formation of trees in Putoran mountains. Lesovedenie 5, 46–49 (1982). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Pozdnyakov, L. K. Forestry on Permafrost Soil (Nauka, Novosibirsk, (1986). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Kuzmin, P. P. The Snow Melting Process (Gidrometeoizdat, Leningrad, (1961). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Zimmerman, M. H. & Brown, C. L. Trees: Structure and Function (Springer, Berlin, (1971).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  14. Gorchakovskii, P. L. & Shiyatov, S. G. Phyto-indication of Environmental Conditions and Nature Processes in High Latitudes (Nauka, Moscow, (1985). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Vaganov, E. A., Shashkin, A. V., Sviderskaya, I. V. & Vysotskaya, L. G. Histometric Analysis of Woody Plant Growth (Nauka, Novosibirsk, (1985). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Bannan, M. W. The vascular cambium and radial growth in Thuja occidentalis L. Can. J. Bot. 33, 113–138 (1955).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Shiyatov, S. G. Snow Cover on the Upper Timberline and its Influence on Woody Plants 141–157 (Inst. of Plant and Animal Ecology, Urals Branch of the Academy of Sciences USSR, Sverdlovsk, (1969). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gregory, R. A. & Wilson, B. F. Acomparison of cambial activity of white spruce in Alaska and New England. Can. J. Bot. 46, 733–734 (1968).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Groisman, P. Y., Karl, T. R. & Knight, R. W. Observed impact of snow cover on the heat balance and the rise of continental spring temperatures. Science 263, 198–200 (1994).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Vaganov, E. A., Sviderskaya, I. V. & Kondratyeva, E. N. Climatic conditions and tree ring structure: simulation model of trachidogram. Lesovedenie 2, 37–45 (1990). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Fritts, H. C., Vaganov, E. A., Sviderskaya, I. V. & Shashkin, A. V. Climatic variation and tree-ring structure in conifers: a statistical simulative model of tree-ring width, number of cells, cell wall-thickness and wood density. Clim. Res. 1, 37–54 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fritts, H. C. & Shashkin, A. V. in Tree Rings as Indicators of Ecosystem Health (ed. Lewis, T. E.) 17–58 (CRC Press, New York, (1995).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Vaganov, E. A., Shiyatov, S. G. & Mazepa, V. S. Dendroclimatic Investigation in Ural-Siberian Subarctic (Nauka, Novosibirsk, (1996). (In Russian.)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Lenz, O., Schär, E. & Schweingruber, F. H. Methodische, Probleme bei der radiographische-densitometrischen Bestimmung der Dichte under der Jahrringbreiten von Holz. Holzforschung 30, 114–123 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by RFFI, CRDF, the Swiss National Science Fund, and the Earth System History Program of the US NSF.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. K. Hughes.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vaganov, E., Hughes, M., Kirdyanov, A. et al. Influence of snowfall and melt timing on tree growth in subarctic Eurasia. Nature 400, 149–151 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/22087

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/22087

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing