Feedback-Driven Response to Multidecadal Climatic Variability at an Alpine Treeline
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has significant climatological and ecological effects in northwestern North America. Its possible effects and their modification by feedbacks are examined in the forest-tundra ecotone in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Tree ring samples were collected to estimate establishment dates in 10 quadrats. Age-diameter regressions were used to estimate the ages of uncored trees. The temporal pattern of establishment and survival was compared to the pattern of the PDO. A wave of establishment began in the mid-1940s, rose to a peak rate in the mid-1970s, and dropped precipitously beginning ca. 1980 to near zero for the 1990s. The period of establishment primarily coincided with the negative phase of the PDO, but the establishment and survival pattern is not correlated with the PDO index. The pattern indicates a period during which establishment was possible and was augmented by positive feedback from surviving trees. Snow may be the most important factor in the feedback, but studies indicate that its effects vary locally. Spatially differentiated analyses of decadal or longer periodicity may elucidate responses to climatic variation.
Published Article/Book Citation
Physical Geography, 24:6 (2003) pp.520-535.