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Tree Growth of Himalayan Fir Varies synchronously across Elevational Belts

Mar 24, 2020

Abies spectabilis (Himalayan Fir) is a Himalayan endemic conifer species and an important constituent of high-elevation forest ecosystems. Studies on climate sensitivity of high-elevation forests in the Himalayan region including new areas are essential for global change ecology as well as regional ecosystem management. 

In a study published in Dendrochronologia, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) evaluated how radial growth of Himalayan fir and its relation to climate varied with elevation in the Manaslu Mountain range in the central Himalaya. 

The researchers developed tree-ring width chronologies of Himalayan fir from three elevational belts at the species’ upper distribution limit (3750-3900 m), in the middle range (3500-3600 m), and at the lower distribution limit (3200-3300 m), and analyzed their associations with climatic factors. 

They found that summer temperature is the most important climatic factor to determine radial growth of Himalayan fir. The tree growth of Himalayan fir varied synchronously across elevational belts, with recent growth increases observed at all elevations. The importance of summer temperature decreased as elevation increased, while the importance of winter temperature increased as elevation increased. 

Moreover, tree growth is increasingly limited by spring moisture availability at low-to-middle elevations with ongoing climate change. No obvious temporal shift has been observed in temperature sensitivity of Himalayan fir. 

"Our results of growth-climate relationships of Himalayan fir across its elevational range could provide more insights on the variability of forest productivity, and the shift of species distribution ranges in this Himalayan biodiversity hotspot under climate change", said Prof. FAN Zexin, principal investigator of the study.

Abies spectabilis shows stable growth relations to temperature, but changing response to moisture conditions along an elevation gradient in the central Himalaya

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