Canadian Forest Service Publications
Tree Ring Reconstructions of Stemwood Biomass Indicate Increases in the Growth Rate of Black Spruce Trees Across Boreal Forests of Canada
Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 41047
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The claim that changes in atmospheric composition and climate have enhanced the growth rate of trees is prevalent in science, yet it is not supported by many recent tree ring studies. In this study, we analyzed historical time trends in stemwood biomass growth derived from black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) trees at 248 plots across Canada. The sample consisted of trees that were live and dominant at the time of sampling (LDS). Observations of stemwood biomass of LDS trees at a reference age of 75 years (Bsw75,LDS) increased by 154 to 321% over 1901–2001 depending on the method of trend estimation. Simulations from a calibrated individual‐based Growth and Yield model—forced with varying degrees of hypothetical trend in tree growth—were used to estimate the proportion of trend that could be attributed to intrinsic factors, including artefacts introduced by sampling from LDS trees instead of from the population of trees. Imposing no time trend in simulated tree growth, stemwood biomass of 75‐year‐old LDS trees (Bsw75,LDS,Model) increased by 63% (41 to 85% CI). We conclude that the remaining variation in growth of LDS trees (154 to 321% minus 63% = 91 to 258%) can be attributed to net extrinsic forcing. The scaling relationship between LDS and population trees further suggested that stemwood biomass growth of the population (Gsw75,POP) increased by 47 to 82%. By accounting for both natural dynamics and artefacts of the sampling design in estimation of net intrinsic forcing, we gained confidence that growth rate of black spruce trees across Canada increased significantly over 1901–2001. While growth enhancement is consistent with beneficial effects of increasing levels of reactive nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and warming, there remains uncertainty in the degree that applied procedures fully account for known sampling artefacts.