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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Post-1980 shifts in the sensitivity of boreal tree growth to North Atlantic Ocean dynamics and seasonal climate

Ols, Clementine; Trouet, Valerie; Girardin, Martin P.; Hofgaard, Annika; Bergeron, Yves; Drobyshev, Igor


The mid-20th century changes in North Atlantic Ocean dynamics, e.g. slow-down of the Atlantic meridional overturning thermohaline circulation (AMOC), have been considered as early signs of tipping points in the Earth climate system. We hypothesized that these changes have significantly altered boreal forest growth dynamics in northeastern North America (NA) and northern Europe (NE), two areas geographically adjacent to the North Atlantic Ocean. To test our hypothesis, we investigated tree growth responses to seasonal large-scale oceanic and atmospheric indices (the AMOC, North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and Arctic Oscillation (AO)) and climate (temperature and precipitation) from 1950 onwards, both at the regional and local levels. We developed a network of 6876 black spruce (NA) and 14437 Norway spruce (NE) tree-ring width series, extracted from forest inventory databases. Analyses revealed post-1980 shifts from insignificant to significant tree growth responses to summer oceanic and atmospheric dynamics both in NA (negative responses to NAO and AO indices) and NE (positive response to NAO and AMOC indices). The strength and sign of these responses varied, however, through space with stronger responses in western and central boreal Quebec and in central and northern boreal Sweden, and across scales with stronger responses at the regional level than at the local level. Emerging post-1980 associations with North Atlantic Ocean dynamics synchronized with stronger tree growth responses to local seasonal climate, particularly to winter temperatures. Our results suggest that ongoing and future anomalies in oceanic and atmospheric dynamics may impact forest growth and carbon sequestration to a greater extent than previously thought. Cross-scale differences in responses to North Atlantic Ocean dynamics highlight complex interplays in the effects of local climate and ocean-atmosphere dynamics on tree growth processes and advocate for the use of different spatial scales in climate-growth research to better understand factors controlling tree growth.


Climate change; Dendrochronology; Climate-growth interactions; Response functions; Teleconnections; Arctic amplification

Published in

Global and Planetary Change
2018, Volume: 165, pages: 1-12

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Forest Science
        Climate Research

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