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Comparison of the responses of radial growth to climate change for two dominant coniferous tree species in the eastern Qilian Mountains, northwestern China

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The temperature in northwestern China has increased significantly since the 1990s. However, the responses of mountainous forests to warming have not been extensively examined. We collected tree rings of two dominant coniferous species of Qinghai spruce (Picea crassifolia) and Chinese pine (Pinus tabulaeformis) in the eastern part of the Qilian Mountains, and analyzed the differences in the response dynamic of the radial growth of two species to climate change. The results showed that (1) the annual radial growth of Qinghai spruce was mainly restricted by the minimum temperature in July and October, and the growth of Chinese pine was mainly restricted by the mean temperature in September of the previous year, January, and July and the maximum temperature in March, May, and July. In particular, Qinghai spruce increased its sensitivity to total precipitation in the growing seasons in March, May, and July after the temperature abruptly increased. (2) In comparison to Qinghai spruce, Chinese pine showed a consistent response to the main climatic factors and was more severely affected by drought stress. Qinghai spruce had divergent responses to mean temperatures in March and May and minimum temperatures in April and June. (3) The growth of Qinghai spruce increased with a significant fluctuation at the end of the twentieth century, while the growth of Chinese pine first showed an increase and then a significant decreasing trend. At present, the increase in temperature has adversely affected the growth of Chinese pine in the eastern Qilian Mountains and promoted the growth of Qinghai spruce. However, a continuous temperature increase could negatively affect the growth of Qinghai spruce because of the increasing probability of drought stress. Therefore, we should pay more attention to the growth dynamics of Qinghai spruce, especially with the different water supply and demand, and to the effects of drought on Chinese pine in forest ecosystems in arid and semiarid areas.

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We thank the anonymous referees for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41861006), Project Supported by State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology (Grant No. 2020-KF-04), and the Research Ability Promotion Program for Young Teachers of Northwest Normal University (NWNU-LKQN2019-4).

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Correspondence to Liang Jiao.

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Jiao, L., Xue, R., Qi, C. et al. Comparison of the responses of radial growth to climate change for two dominant coniferous tree species in the eastern Qilian Mountains, northwestern China. Int J Biometeorol 65, 1823–1836 (2021).

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