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Title: Delineating Environmental Stresses to Primary Production of U.S. Forests From Tree Rings: Effects of Climate Seasonality, Soil, and Topography

Primary production is the entry point of energy and carbon into ecosystems, but modeling responses of primary production to “environmental stress” (i.e., reductions of primary production from nonoptimal environmental conditions) remains a key challenge and source of uncertainty in our understanding of Earth's carbon cycle. Here we develop an approach for estimating annual “environmental stress” from tree rings based on the proportion of the optimal diameter growth rate (from species‐specific allometric equations) that is realized in a given year. We assessed climatic, topographic, and soil drivers of environmental stress, as well as their interactions, using both empirical model experiments and linear mixed effect models. Climate gradients and interannual climate variability dominated spatial and temporal variability of environmental stress in much of the western United States, where the tree‐ring environmental stress index was positively correlated with antecedent climatic water balance (precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration) and negatively correlated with temperature and vapor pressure deficit. Excluding topographic and soil information from empirical models reduced their ability to capture spatial gradients in environmental stress, particularly in the eastern United States, where growth was not as strongly limited by climate. Mean climate conditions and topographic characteristics had significant interaction effects with the climatic water balance, indicating an increasing importance of winter moisture for warmer and drier sites and as elevation and topographic wetness index increased. These results suggest that including effects of antecedent climate (particularly in dry regions) and site topographic and soil characteristics could improve parameterization of environmental stress effects in primary production models.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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