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Researchers reveal the response of the radial growth to climate in Xinjiang Altai Mountains

Considering climate change, it is crucial to investigate the impact of climate change on forest growth in fragile ecosystems along the Silk Road, which is a prerequisite for ensuring sustainable economic and ecological development on the Silk Road. Therefore, ZHOU Peng from the South China Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, under the guidance of Prof. HUANG Jianguo, developed a tree-ring network of 13 Larix sibirica (the dominant species in Xinjiang Altai) chronologies along an altitudinal gradient in the Altai Mountains, Xinjiang.

Researchers quantified the effects of climatic factors on radial growth and revealed the spatial variation in the radial growth-climate relationship. Results showed that chronologies were clustered into low- and high-altitude groups. In the low-altitude group, the self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (scPDSI) in current April, the previous September mean temperature, and diurnal temperature range in previous July explained 63% of radial growth variance. Among them, the scPDSI, with a relative importance of 63%, was the primary limiting factor. In the high-altitude group, the current January maximum temperature and previous July precipitation together contributed to 38% variance in radial growth. Furthermore, the plot-specific relationship between climate variables and radial growth varied significantly with different altitudes. As the climate becomes wetting and warming in the Altai Mountains, our result suggests that the radial growth might benefit in an altitude between 1800 and 1900 m a.s.l., where temperature and precipitation were both positively correlated with radial growth. These findings will provide a basis for regional sustainable forest management under global climate change.

The research was published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, entitled "Radial growth of Larix sibirica was more sensitive to climate at low than high altitudes in the Altai Mountains, China".

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