Dissimilar responses of larch stands in northern Siberia to increasing temperatures – a field and simulation based study

Ulrike.Herzschuh [ at ] awi.de


Arctic and alpine treelines worldwide differ in their reactions to climate change. A northward advance of or densification within the treeline ecotone will likely influence climate-vegetation feedback mechanisms. In our study, which was conducted in the Taimyr Depression in the North Siberian Lowlands, w present a combined field- and model-based approach helping us to better understand the population processes involved in the responses of the whole treeline ecotone, spanning from closed forest to single-tree tundra, to climate warming. Using information on stand structure, tree age, and seed quality and quantity from seven sites, we investigate effects of intra-specific competition and seed availability on the specific impact of recent climate warming on larch stands. Field data show that tree density is highest in the forest-tundra, and average tree size decreases from closed forest to single-tree tundra. Age-structure analyses indicate that the trees in the closed forest and forest-tundra have been present for at least ~240 years. At all sites except the most southerly ones, past establishment is positively correlated with regional temperature increase. In the single-tree tundra however, a change in growth form from krummholz to erect trees, beginning ~130 years ago, rather than establishment date has been recorded. Seed mass decreases from south to north, while seed quantity increases. Simulations with LAVESI (Larix Vegetation Simulator) further suggest that relative density changes strongly in response to a warming signal in the forest-tundra while intra-specific competition limits densification in the closed forest and seed limitation hinders densification in the single-tree tundra. We find striking differences in strength and timing of responses to recent climate warming. While forest-tundra stands recently densified, recruitment is almost non-existent at the southern and northern end of the ecotone due to autecological processes. Palaeo-treelines may therefore be inappropriate to infer past temperature changes at a fine scale. Moreover, a lagged treeline response to past warming will, via feedback mechanisms, influence climate change in the future.

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DOI 10.1002/ecy.1887

Cite as
Wieczorek, M. , Kruse, S. , Epp, L. , Kolomogorov, A. , Nikolaev, A. N. , Heinrich, I. , Jeltsch, F. , Pestryakova, L. A. , Zibulski, R. and Herzschuh, U. (2017): Dissimilar responses of larch stands in northern Siberia to increasing temperatures – a field and simulation based study , Ecology . doi: 10.1002/ecy.1887



Geographical region

Research Platforms

Arctic Land Expeditions > RU-Land_2011_Khatanga
Arctic Land Expeditions > RU-Land_2013_Taymyr

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