Slow lifelong growth predisposes Populus tremuloides trees to mortality

Kathryn B. Ireland, Margaret M Moore, Peter Z Fule, Thomas J. Zegler, Robert E. Keane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Widespread dieback of aspen forests, sometimes called sudden aspen decline, has been observed throughout much of western North America, with the highest mortality rates in the southwestern United States. Recent aspen mortality has been linked to drought stress and elevated temperatures characteristic of conditions expected under climate change, but the role of individual aspen tree growth patterns in contributing to recent tree mortality is less well known. We used tree-ring data to investigate the relationship between an individual aspen tree's lifetime growth patterns and mortality. Surviving aspen trees had consistently higher average growth rates for at least 100 years than dead trees. Contrary to observations from late successional species, slow initial growth rates were not associated with a longer lifespan in aspen. Aspen trees that died had slower lifetime growth and slower growth at various stages of their lives than those that survived. Differences in average diameter growth between live and dead trees were significant (α = 0.05) across all time periods tested. Our best logistical model of aspen mortality indicates that younger aspen trees with lower recent growth rates and higher frequencies of abrupt growth declines had an increased risk of mortality. Our findings highlight the need for species-specific mortality functions in forest succession models. Size-dependent mortality functions suitable for late successional species may not be appropriate for species with different life history strategies. For some early successional species, like aspen, slow growth at various stages of the tree's life is associated with increased mortality risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-859
Number of pages13
JournalOecologia
Volume175
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

Populus tremuloides
mortality
dead wood
forest succession
Southwestern United States
mortality risk
tree mortality
dieback
growth rings
drought stress
tree growth
tree ring
water stress
life history
climate change

Keywords

  • Decline
  • Dendroecology
  • Growth pattern
  • Populus tremuloides
  • Quaking aspen
  • Tree mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Slow lifelong growth predisposes Populus tremuloides trees to mortality. / Ireland, Kathryn B.; Moore, Margaret M; Fule, Peter Z; Zegler, Thomas J.; Keane, Robert E.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 175, No. 3, 2014, p. 847-859.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ireland, Kathryn B. ; Moore, Margaret M ; Fule, Peter Z ; Zegler, Thomas J. ; Keane, Robert E. / Slow lifelong growth predisposes Populus tremuloides trees to mortality. In: Oecologia. 2014 ; Vol. 175, No. 3. pp. 847-859.
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