Temperature and rainfall strongly drive temporal growth variation in Asian tropical forest trees

Abstract

Climate change effects on growth rates of tropical trees may lead to alterations in carbon cycling of carbon-rich tropical forests. However, climate sensitivity of broad-leaved lowland tropical trees is poorly understood. Dendrochronology (tree-ring analysis) provides a powerful tool to study the relationship between tropical tree growth and annual climate variability. We aimed to establish climate–growth relationships for five annual-ring forming tree species, using ring-width data from 459 canopy and understory trees from a seasonal tropical forest in western Thailand. Based on 183/459 trees, chronologies with total lengths between 29 and 62 years were produced for four out of five species. Bootstrapped correlation analysis revealed that climate–growth responses were similar among these four species. Growth was significantly negatively correlated with current-year maximum and minimum temperatures, and positively correlated with dry-season precipitation levels. Negative correlations between growth and temperature may be attributed to a positive relationship between temperature and autotrophic respiration rates. The positive relationship between growth and dry-season precipitation levels likely reflects the strong water demand during leaf flush. Mixed-effect models yielded results that were consistent across species: a negative effect of current wet-season maximum temperatures on growth, but also additive positive effects of, for example, prior dry-season maximum temperatures. Our analyses showed that annual growth variability in tropical trees is determined by a combination of both temperature and precipitation variability. With rising temperature, the predominantly negative relationship between temperature and growth may imply decreasing growth rates of tropical trees as a result of global warming.

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Acknowledgments

This study was financially supported by the European Research Council (ERC, grant #242955). We thank the National research Council of Thailand and Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for granting permission to carry out fieldwork in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. We thank Dr. Somboon Kiratiprayoon for providing both company and support during our stay in Thailand. The field staff of the Huai Kha Khaeng Long Term Forest Dynamics Research Project are acknowledged for their assistance in the field. We thank four anonymous reviewers and the editor for valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Mart Vlam.

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Communicated by Jeremy Lichstein.

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442_2013_2846_MOESM1_ESM.jpg

Fig. S1 Ring structure of the five study species, direction of growth is from right to left. White arrows indicate ring boundaries (JPEG 3397 kb)

442_2013_2846_MOESM2_ESM.eps

Fig. S2 Boxplots showing the dbh distribution of all sampled trees and those trees included in the chronology (EPS 906 kb)

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Vlam, M., Baker, P.J., Bunyavejchewin, S. et al. Temperature and rainfall strongly drive temporal growth variation in Asian tropical forest trees. Oecologia 174, 1449–1461 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-013-2846-x

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Keywords

  • Climate–growth relationship
  • Global change
  • Thailand
  • Tree rings
  • Tropical tree