Non-linear regional weather-growth relationships indicate limited adaptability of the eastern Baltic Scots pine
Under changing climate, temporal and spatial stability (stationarity) of growth responses of trees to weather and climate, which has often been presumed without explicit testing, is crucial for prediction of productivity and sustainability of forests. However, considering evolutionary adaptation of tree populations to wide spatio-temporal ecological gradients, extrapolation of linear responses, which could be observed in limited parts of the gradients (certainlocality), can result in biased results. Accordingly, the plasticity of responses of tree-ring width of the eastern Baltic populations of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) to meteorological conditions across the regional climatic gradient was assessed using a mixed generalized additive model. The linear responses were assessed using a bootstrapped correlation analysis for comparison. The radial growth responses of the eastern Baltic population of Scots pine showed explicit regional gradients according to the local climates, indicating gradual shifts in the effects of winter temperature and summer moisture regime. Accordingly, temperature in late-winter and summer, as well as summer water deficit were identified as the main regional drivers of tree-ring width. Their effects were generally non-linear, indicating explicit spatiotemporal gradients in growth responses in the mid-part of species distribution. This also implied limited efficiency of simple linear models for the assessment of radial growth under moderate conditions. The responses to summer temperature indicated local optima, while the responses to drought index showed threshold values. The responses to winter temperature indicated positive effect of warming on growth. In some stands, specific non-stationary responses though were evident, suggesting that trees have adapted (specialized) to certain local climatic conditions, which are changing and thus explaining temporal shifts in growth responses. Nevertheless, the estimated responses suggested phenotypical adaptability limits of the eastern Baltic populations of Scots pine in a longer term, supporting the necessity of climate-smart management for sustainability of forest in the region in the future.
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