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Blue intensity as a temperature proxy in the eastern United States: A pilot study from a southern disjunct population of Picea rubens (Sarg.)

Heeter, Karen J., Harley, Grant L., Van De Gevel, Saskia L., White, Philip B.
Dendrochronologia 2019 v.55 pp. 105-109
Picea rubens, air temperature, autumn, climate, conifers, growth rings, time series analysis, trees, Appalachian region, Eastern United States
Annual surface air temperatures across the eastern United States (US) have increased by more than 1 °C within the last century, with the recent decades marked by an unprecedented warming trend. Tree-rings have long been used as a proxy for climate reconstruction, but few truly temperature-sensitive trees have been documented for the eastern US, much less the Appalachian Mountains in the Southeast. Here, we measure blue intensity (BI) and ring width (RWI) in red spruce growing at the southernmost latitudinal range margin of the species on the North Carolina-Tennessee border to test the efficacy of using either metric as a temperature proxy in the eastern US. The BI and RWI chronologies spanned 1883–2008 and had an interseries correlations of 0.42 and 0.54, respectively, but time series were trimmed to the period 1950–2008 due to low sample depth. We discovered strong, positive, and stable correlations between both current-year early fall (September–October) Tmax (r = 0.62; p < 0.001) and Tmean (r = 0.51; p < 0.001) and ΔBI during the period 1950–2008, but found no significant relationships between temperature and RWI. We show BI metrics measured in red spruce to be a promising temperature proxy for the southern Appalachian Mountain region. Future research should focus on testing [1] the efficacy of using BI on red spruce collected from across the species range, and [2] the potential for using BI as a temperature proxy in other conifers distributed in the eastern US.