Open Access Research

Treeline dynamics in response to climate change in the Min Mountains, southwestern China

Zhi-Jiang Zhao1, Guo-Zhen Shen2, Liu-Yi Tan1, Dong-Wei Kang1, Meng-Jun Wang1, Wen Kang1, Wen-Xia Guo1, Melanie JB Zeppel3, Qiang Yu4 and Jun-Qing Li1*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory for Silviculture and Conservation of MOE, School of Forest Science, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China

2 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

3 Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia

4 Plant Functional Biology & Climate Change Cluster, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia

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Botanical Studies 2013, 54:15  doi:10.1186/1999-3110-54-15

Published: 22 August 2013

Abstract

Background

Abies faxoniana is the dominant plant species of the forest ecosystem on the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the treeline is strongly defined by climate. The tree-ring chronologies and age structure of Abies faxoniana were developed in the treeline ecotones on the northwestern and southeastern aspects of the Min Mountains in the Wanglang Nature Reserve to examine the treeline dynamics of recent decades in response to climate change.

Results

On the northwestern aspect, correlation analysis showed that the radial growth was significantly and positively correlated with precipitation in current January and monthly mean temperature in current April, but significantly and negatively correlated with monthly mean temperature in previous August. On the southeastern aspect, the radial growth was significantly negatively correlated with monthly mean temperature in previous July and August.

Conclusions

The different responses of radial growth to climatic variability on both the aspects might be mainly due to the micro-environmental conditions. The recruitment benefited from the warm temperature in current April, July and September on the northwestern aspect. The responses of radial growth and recruitment to climatic variability were similar on the northwestern slope. Recruitment was greatly restricted by competition with dense bamboos on the southeastern aspect.

Keywords:
Abies faxoniana; Age structure; Climatic variability; Radial growth; Treeline; Tree-ring chronology