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Negative growth responses to temperature of sympatric species converge under warming conditions on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau

  • Qiqi Du
  • Sergio Rossi
  • Xiaoming Lu
  • Yafeng Wang
  • Haifeng Zhu
  • Eryuan LiangEmail author
  • J. Julio Camarero
Original Article


Key message

Warming-induced drought stress leads to convergent and negative growth responses to temperature between sympatric tree species, implying an increasing interspecific competition for soil moisture.


In mixed forests, sympatric tree species avoid competition by partitioning their niches according to available environment resources. We raise the hypothesis that climate warming leads to a convergence in growth responses to climate, thus increasing the competition among sympatric species in drought-prone forests. In this study, we selected a mixed forest located at ca. 3600 m a.s.l in the Baima Snow Mountains, an inner dry valley of the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. We measured width of the tree rings produced during 1910–2016 in 60 trees belonging to three sympatric species: Abies georgei, Picea likiangensis, and Betula delavayi. We analyzed the changes in radial growth and their responses to climate. We detected shifts in the responses to climate after the 1990s. The radial growth of all species was positively correlated with precipitation from 1964 to 1990, but negatively correlated with March–June temperature from 1991 to 2016. Compared to the period 1964–1990, convergent and negative growth responses to warmer temperatures in the period 1991–2016 probably reflect less available soil moisture for growing in this mixed forest. We conclude that climate warming will affect the niches of sympatric species in mixed forests subjected to seasonal drought, thus increasing competition and altering structure and composition of the stands in dry regions.


Tree rings Mixed forests Growth convergence Climate warming Inner dry valley Tibetan Plateau 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41661144040), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20050101), and Youth Innovation Promotion Association of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

468_2019_1924_MOESM1_ESM.docx (799 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 798 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Alpine EcologyInstitute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Departement des Sciences Fundamentals, Laboratoirs d’Ecologie VegetaleUniversity of Quebec in ChicoutimiChicoutimiCanada
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied BotanySouth China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  5. 5.College of Biology and the EnvironmentNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingChina
  6. 6.CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  7. 7.Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (IPE-CSIC)ZaragossaSpain

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