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Constraints to growth of boreal forests


Understanding how the growth of trees at high latitudes in boreal forest is controlled is important for projections of global carbon sequestration and timber production in relation to climate change. Is stem growth of boreal forest trees constrained by the length of the growing season when stem cambial cells divide1, or by the length of the period when resources can be captured2? In both cases, the timing of the thaw in the spring is critical: neither cambial cell division nor uptake of nutrients and carbon dioxide can occur while the soil is frozen. Here we argue, on the basis of long-term observations made in northern Saskatchewan and Sweden, that the time between the spring thaw and the autumn freeze determines the amount of annual tree growth, mainly through temperature effects on carbon-dioxide uptake in spring and on nutrient availability and uptake during summer, rather than on cambial cell division.

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Figure 1: Annual increment of stem volume in stands of young Norway spruce during a nutrient-optimization experiment, and relative effect of soil warming on the annual volume production at Flakaliden in northern Sweden.


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Jarvis, P., Linder, S. Constraints to growth of boreal forests. Nature 405, 904–905 (2000).

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