Relative effects of climate and competition on annual growth of Pinus contorta var. latifolia, Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum, and Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca
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The role of climate and competition in determining species growth is unclear despite the existence of a large body of research. Forest ecology studies report different findings depending on focal species and study site characteristics. Examining the relative role of climate and competition requires work at the level of the individual where factors interact. Such investigation is typically approached with neighborhood analyses. The study conducted distance-dependent neighborhood analyses of three conifer species common to the Rocky Mountain region of the United States: Pinus contorta var. latifolia, Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum, and Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca. The three study species were found growing together in montane ecotones that coincided with elevation gradients. The study employed a gradient sampling technique within these ecotones and a dendrochronological approach to investigate the relative role of climate and competition on the mean annual radial growth of the focal species over the time period of 2004-2013. Bayesian regression models showed species differences in magnitude of response to climate and competition variables. Mean annual precipitation and random effects explained a large amount of growth variation relative to other factors. Relatively weak or insignificant predictors of mean annual growth included focal tree size, mean annual temperature differential at a location, and competition with conspecifics and heterospecifics. The observation of varied species sensitivity to environmental factors can inform management and forest ecologists seeking to better understand forest composition at present and in climate change scenarios.
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