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Research article2014Peer reviewedOpen access

Environmental controls of the northern distribution limit of yellow birch in eastern Canada

Drobyshev, Igor; Guitard, Marc-Antoine; Asselin, Hugo; Genries, A; Bergeron, Yves


To evaluate environmental controls of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton) distribution at its northern distribution limit in eastern Canada, we analyzed abundance, age structure, biomass accumulation rate, and growth sensitivity to climate of this species at 14 sites along a 200 km latitudinal gradient spanning three bioclimatic domains and reaching frontier populations of this species in western Quebec. We observed a large variability in seedling density across domains and presence of sites with abundant yellow birch regeneration within all three bioclimatic domains. Seedling density was positively correlated to mean age and abundance of yellow birch trees in the canopy, while sapling density was positively associated with dryer habitats. Growth patterns of canopy trees showed no effect of declining temperatures along the south-north gradient. Environmental controls of birch distribution at its northern limit were realized through factors affecting birch regeneration and not growth of canopy trees. At the stand scale, regeneration density was strongly controlled by local site conditions and not by differences in climate among sites. At the regional scale, climate variability could be an indirect driver of yellow birch distribution, affecting disturbance rates and, subsequently, availability of suitable sites for regeneration.

Published in

Canadian Journal of Forest Research
2014, Volume: 44, number: 7, pages: 720-731
Publisher: NRC Research Press (Canadian Science Publishing)

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