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Forskningsartikel2024Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Elevation-dependent tree growth response to climate in a natural Scots pine/downy birch forest in northern Sweden

Fassl, Magdalena; Aakala, Tuomas; Östlund, Lars


Forests dominate the landscape at high latitudes in the boreal regions and contribute significantly to the global carbon stock. Large areas are protected and provide possibilities to analyze natural forest dynamics including resilience to climate change. In Fennoscandia, Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and downy birch (Betula pubescens Ehrh.) often coexist in natural forests close to the limits of their ecological ranges. Tree growth in these forests is generally thought to be limited by temperature, and changes in growth trends can therefore serve as early indicators of the impact of global warming on natural ecosystems. We sampled 592 Scots pine and downy birch trees along two elevational gradients spanning the transition from the forest zone to the coniferous treeline in Tjeggelvas nature reserve, northern Sweden. Based on the tree-ring data, we compared annual basal area increment (BAI) trends from 1902 to 2021, analyzed the ring-width indices (RWI) in relation to local climate data, and investigated trends in climate–growth relationships. We found that the mean annual growth of both species was higher in more recent years than at the beginning of the 20th century. The RWI were positively correlated with summer temperatures, however, we found a much stronger relationship for Scots pine than downy birch. We noticed a decrease in the importance of summer temperature for Scots pine growth, whereas the importance of late spring temperatures increased over the 120-year-long study period. Due to strongly positive BAI trends combined with a decrease in temperature sensitivity, the overall conclusion of our study is that the influence of increasing temperatures is still positive and outweighs the negative impacts of climate change on Scots pine growth in natural forests in northern Sweden, particularly at higher elevations. Natural forests are important natural experiments that contrast the managed forests and are key to understanding the latter.


Betula pubescens; climate–growth relationships; dendroecology; Fennoscandia; old growth; Pinus sylvestris; Tjeggelvas nature reserve; tree rings

Publicerad i

Plant-Environment Interactions
2024, Volym: 5, nummer: 2, artikelnummer: e10140