Uneven winter snow influence on tree growth across temperate China

Xiuchen Wu, Xiaoyan Li, Hongyan Liu, Philippe Ciais, Yuanqiao Li, Chongyang Xu, Flurin Babst, Weichao Guo, Bingyan Hao, Pei Wang, Yongmei Huang, Shaomin Liu, Yuhong Tian, Bin He, Cicheng Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Winter snow is an important driver of tree growth in regions where growing-season precipitation is limited. However, observational evidence of this influence at larger spatial scales and across diverse bioclimatic regions is lacking. Here, we investigated the interannual effects of winter (here defined as previous October to current February) snow depth on tree growth across temperate China over the period of 1961–2015, using a regional network of tree ring records, in situ daily snow depth observations, and gridded climate data. We report uneven effects of winter snow depth on subsequent growing-season tree growth across temperate China. There shows little effect on tree growth in drier regions that we attribute mainly to limited snow accumulation during winter. By contrast, winter snow exerts important positive influence on tree growth in stands with high winter snow accumulation (e.g., in parts of cold arid regions). The magnitude of this effect depends on the proportion of winter snow to pre-growing-season (previous October to current April) precipitation. We further observed that tree growth in drier regions tends to be increasingly limited by warmer growing-season temperature and early growing-season water availability. No compensatory effect of winter snow on the intensifying drought limitation of tree growth was observed across temperate China. Our findings point toward an increase in drought vulnerability of temperate forests in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-154
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • drought
  • snow depth
  • temperate China
  • tree growth
  • tree ring chronology
  • water use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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