Unraveling environmental factors that affect Pinus longaeva growth in the White Mountains, California

TitleUnraveling environmental factors that affect Pinus longaeva growth in the White Mountains, California
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHallman, CL
AdvisorSheppard, P
Academic DepartmentGeography
UniversityUniversity of Arizona
KeywordsPhysical geography

Two of the most pressing questions involving ancient bristlecone pines are how microsite factors lead to differences in tree responses to climate at high-elevation sites, and how global change has impacted growing season events. Disparities in climate response at treeline and subalpine locations have been associated with local environmental characteristics while the increasing growth trend found at treeline has been linked to warming. In this study, environmental conditions were considered in order to identify microsite differences between trees growing at two different elevations on four aspects of a conical-shaped mountain in the White Mountains, California. Dendrochronological, environmental, correlational, and spectral methods were employed to explore differences in ring-width chronologies. Albedo, soil thickness, and percent slope led to ring-width variability. Northwestern upper site was most highly correlated with precipitation, while the Southeastern lower site showed a strong negative correlation with temperature. This work indicates that selection of climate-sensitive trees a priori necessitates the consideration of local environmental factors, and these microsite differences resulted in different climate responses between nearby trees. By monitoring growing season events at the historic phenology site from the 1962-64 (Fritts 1969), natural variations and responses to climate change can be identified. Morphological and physiological phenophases, dendrometer traces, and environmental data were collected throughout the summers of 2007 and 2008. Duration and timing of cambial activity (tracheid lifespan) in the present study were similar to those recorded in the Fritts (1969) investigation, while pollination onset and bud opening occurred earlier in this study. No change was found in duration and timing of cambial activity suggesting that changes in cambial phenology are not an explanation for the increasing growth trend found at upper forest borders. On the other hand, changes in bud opening and pollination onset may be related to recent warming. To monitor diurnal and seasonal stem variability as part of phenologic studies on several trees, a point potentiometer dendrometer was designed. The newly designed point potentiometer dendrometer was tested in multiple environments and found to be versatile, cost-effective, and portable, working well in semi-arid and arid environments.