Changing climate response in near-treeline bristlecone pine with elevation and aspect

Matthew W. Salzer, Evan R. Larson, Andrew G. Bunn, Malcolm K. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


In the White Mountains of California, eight bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) tree-ring width chronologies were developed from trees at upper treeline and just below upper treeline along North- and South-facing elevational transects from treeline to ∼90 m below. There is evidence for a climate-response threshold between approximately 60-80 vertical m below treeline, above which trees have shown a positive growth-response to temperature and below which they do not. Chronologies from 80 m or more below treeline show a change in climate response and do not correlate strongly with temperature-sensitive chronologies developed from trees growing at upper treeline. Rather, they more closely resemble lower elevation precipitation-sensitive chronologies. At the highest sites, trees on South-facing slopes grow faster than trees on North-facing slopes. High growth rates in the treeline South-facing trees have declined since the mid-1990s. This suggests the possibility that the climate-response of the highest South-facing trees may have changed and that temperature may no longer be the main limiting factor for growth on the South aspect. These results indicate that increasing warmth may lead to a divergence between tree growth and temperature at previously temperature-limited sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • bristlecone pine
  • dendroclimatology
  • paleoclimate
  • tree rings
  • treeline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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