Recent unprecedented tree-ring growth in bristlecone pine at the highest elevations and possible causes

Matthew W. Salzer, Malcolm K. Hughes, Andrew G. Bunn, Kurt F. Kipfmueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

287 Scopus citations


Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) at 3 sites in western North America near the upper elevation limit of tree growth showed ring growth in the second half of the 20th century that was greater than during any other 50-year period in the last 3,700 years. The accelerated growth is suggestive of an environmental change unprecedented in millennia. The high growth is not overestimated because of standardization techniques, and it is unlikely that it is a result of a change in tree growth form or that it is predominantly caused by CO2 fertilization. The growth surge has occurred only in a limited elevational band within ≈150 m of upper treeline, regardless of treeline elevation. Both an independent proxy record of temperature and high-elevation meteorological temperature data are positively and significantly correlated with upper-treeline ring width both before and during the high-growth interval. Increasing temperature at high elevations is likely a prominent factor in the modern unprecedented level of growth for Pinus longaeva at these sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20348-20353
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Dendrochronology
  • Great basin
  • Tree rings
  • Treeline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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