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Annual increments of juniper dwarf shrubs above the tree line on the central Tibetan Plateau: a useful climatic proxy
- Liang, Eryuan, Lu, Xiaoming, Ren, Ping, Li, Xiaoxia, Zhu, Liping, Eckstein, Dieter
- Annals of botany 2012 v.109 no.4 pp. 721-728
- Juniperus, climate change, climatic factors, dendroclimatology, dwarfing, forests, growing season, growth rings, information sources, lakes, meteorological data, plateaus, shrubs, stems, temperature, trees, tundra, weather stations
- BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Dendroclimatology is playing an important role in understanding past climatic changes on the Tibetan Plateau. Forests, however, are mainly confined to the eastern Tibetan Plateau. On the central Tibetan Plateau, in contrast, shrubs and dwarf shrubs need to be studied instead of trees as a source of climate information. The objectives of this study were to check the dendrochronological potential of the dwarf shrub Wilson juniper (Juniperus pingii var. wilsonii) growing from 4740 to 4780 m a.s.l. and to identify the climatic factors controlling its radial growth. METHODS: Forty-three discs from 33 stems of Wilson juniper were sampled near the north-eastern shore of the Nam Co (Heavenly Lake). Cross-dating was performed along two directions of each stem, avoiding the compression-wood side as far as possible. A ring-width chronology was developed after a negative exponential function or a straight line of any slope had been fit to the raw measurements. Then, correlations were calculated between the standard ring-width chronology and monthly climate data recorded by a weather station around 100 km away. KEY RESULTS: Our study has shown high dendrochronological potential of Wilson juniper, based on its longevity (one individual was 324 years old), well-defined growth rings, reliable cross-dating between individuals and distinct climatic signals reflected by the ring-width variability. Unlike dwarf shrubs in the circum-arctic tundra ecosystem which positively responded to above-average temperature in the growing season, moisture turned out to be growth limiting for Wilson juniper, particularly the loss of moisture caused by high maximum temperatures in May–June. CONCLUSIONS: Because of the wide distribution of shrub and dwarf shrub species on the central Tibetan Plateau, an exciting prospect was opened up to extend the presently existing tree-ring networks far up into one of the largest tundra regions of the world.