Canadian Forest Service Publications

Assessing the influence of climate on the growth rate of boreal tree species in northeastern Canada through long term permanent sample plot datasets. 2020. Searls, T.; Zhu, X.; McKenney, D.W.; Mazumder, R.; Steenberg, J.; Yan, G.; Meng, F-R. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 51(7) 1039-1049.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40655

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2020-0257

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Mark record


Climate has a considerable influence on tree growth. Forest managers benefit from the empirical study of the historic relationship between climatic variables and tree growth to support forest management frameworks that are to be applied under scenarios of climate change. Through this research, we have utilized long-term permanent sample plot records, historic climate data sets, and linear mixed modelling techniques to evaluate the historic influence of climatic variables on the growth rates of major boreal tree species in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. For the commercially significant spruce and fir forests of the province, we found growing degree-days (GDD) to negatively correlate with tree productivity in warmer regions, such as much of Newfoundland (±1350 GDD), but positively correlate with growth in cooler regions, such as those in Labrador (±750 GDD). With respect to precipitation, environmental moisture was not on average a limiting factor to species productivity in the province. These dynamics have implications for the productivity of the spruce–fir forests of the study area when considered alongside contemporary climate projections for the region, which generally entail both a warmer and wetter growing environment.

Plain Language Summary

Forest managers need credible information of climate influence on the growth of their local forests as they develop adaptive forest management strategies. This study provided a thorough analysis of how temperature and precipitation has affected the growth rate of major boreal tree species in Newfoundland and Labrador over past 30 years. We utilized long-term permanent sample plot records, historic climate datasets, and advanced statistical modeling techniques to evaluate the historic influence of climate on tree growth in the province. For both balsam fir and black spruce – the two major commercial tree species of the province, we found that climate warming reduces tree productivity in Newfoundland but increases tree productivity in Labrador. With respect to precipitation, we found that moisture was not a limiting factor to tree productivity in the province. Given the future projection of warmer and wetter climate for the province, our findings indicate a change in productivity of the spruce-fir forests in the province under climate change.