The variable climate response of Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata Engelm.)

William Lazar Tintor, Connie A. Woodhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent increases in temperature over the semi-arid western United States have been shown to exacerbate drought, reducing streamflow, and increasing stress on ecosystems. Our understanding of the role temperature played during drought in the more distant past is far from complete. While numerous tree-ring proxy records of moisture provide evidence for past extreme droughts in this region, few contemporaneous tree-ring proxy records of temperatures exist. This limits our ability to evaluate the variable influence of temperature on drought over past centuries and to contextualize the present interplay of moisture and temperature during more recent drought events. It is also important to understand the complexity of climatic interactions that produced drought under natural variability prior to evaluating the potential impacts of future climate change. In response to this knowledge gap, we undertook the first extensive evaluation of climate sensitivity in Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata Engelm.), focusing on the potential for developing new multi-century proxy records of both temperature and precipitation. We isolated dominant patterns of growth variability among trees from ten ring-width datasets across the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico and assessed their response to climate. We utilized both an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis and a modified form of hierarchical cluster analysis to produce time series representing growth patterns in P. aristata. The results indicate a widespread June drought stress signal with a high potential for multi-millennial reconstruction. We also found a positive minimum temperature response during late summer, evident only at lower frequency and co-occurring at locations with the June drought stress signal. The potential for temperature reconstruction will require further investigation into the physiological linkages between P. aristata and climate variability. The presence of multiple climate responses within P. aristata sampling sites highlights the need for particular care when including P. aristata in regional climate reconstructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125846
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Climate response
  • Pinus aristata
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Tree growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The variable climate response of Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata Engelm.)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this