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  1. Growing season temperatures play a crucial role in controlling treeline elevation at regional to global scales. However, understanding of treeline dynamics in response to long-term changes in temperature is limited. In this study, we analyze pollen, plant macrofossils, and charcoal preserved in organic layers within a 10,400-year-old ice patch and in sediment from a 6000-year-old wetland located above present-day treeline in the Beartooth Mountains, Wyoming, to explore the relationship between Holocene climate variability and shifts in treeline elevation. Pollen data indicate a lower-than-present treeline between 9000 and 6200 cal yr BP during the warm, dry summer and cold winter conditions of the early Holocene. Increases in arboreal pollen at 6200 cal yr BP suggest an upslope treeline expansion when summers became cooler and wetter. A possible hiatus in the wetland record at ca. 4200–3000 cal yr BP suggests increased snow and ice cover at high elevations and a lowering of treeline. Treeline position continued to fluctuate with growing season warming and cooling during the late-Holocene. Periods of high fire activity correspond with times of increased woody cover at high elevations. The two records indicate that climate was an important driver of vegetation and treeline change during the Holocene. Early Holocene treeline was governed by moisture limitations, whereas late-Holocene treeline was sensitive to increases in growing season temperatures. Climate projections for the region suggest warmer temperatures could decrease effective growing season moisture at high elevations resulting in a reduction of treeline elevation. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2025
  2. Introduction Tree defense characteristics play a crucial role in modulating conifer bark beetle interactions, and there is a growing body of literature investigating factors mediating tree growth and resin-based defenses in conifers. A subset of studies have looked at relationships between tree growth, resin duct morphology and climate; however, these studies are almost exclusively from lower-elevation, moisture-limited systems. The relationship between resin ducts and climate in higher-elevation, energy-limited ecosystems is currently poorly understood. Methods In this study, we: (1) evaluated the relationship between biological trends in tree growth, resin duct anatomy, and climatic variability and (2) determined if tree growth and resin duct morphology of whitebark pine, a high-elevation conifer of management concern, is constrained by climate and/or regional drought conditions. Results We found that high-elevation whitebark pine trees growing in an energy-limited system experienced increased growth and defense under warmer and regionally drier conditions, with climate variables explaining a substantive proportion of variation (∼20–31%) in tree diameter growth and resin duct anatomy. Discussion Our results suggest that whitebark pine growth and defense was historically limited by short growing seasons in high-elevation environments; however, this relationship may change in the future with prolonged warming conditions. 
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  3. Abstract

    In the past century, most eruptions of Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park's Norris Geyser Basin were mainly clustered in three episodes: 1961–1969, 1982–1984, and ongoing since 2018. These eruptive episodes resulted in extensive disturbance to surrounding trees. To characterize tree response over time as an indicator of geyser activity adjustments to climate variability, aerial and ground images were analyzed to document changes in tree coverage around the geyser since 1954. Radiocarbon dating of silicified tree remnants from within 14 m of the geyser vent was used to examine geyser response to possible variations in decadal to centennial precipitation patterns. We searched for atypical or absent growth rings in cores from live trees in years associated with large geyser eruptions. Photographs indicate that active eruptive phases have adversely affected trees up to 30 m from the vent, primarily in the dominant downwind direction. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the geyser formed before 1878, in contrast to the birthdate reported in historical documents. Further, the ages of the silicified trees cluster within three episodes that are temporally correlated with periods of relative drought in the Yellowstone region during the 15th–17th centuries. The discontinuous growth of trees around the geyser suggests that changes in eruptive patterns occur in response to decadal to multidecadal droughts. This inference is supported by the lack of silicified specimens with more than 20 annual rings and by the existence of atypical or missing rings in live trees during periods of extended geyser activity.

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    The unprecedented size of the 2017 wildfires that burned nearly 600,000 hectares of central Chile highlight a need to better understand the climatic conditions under which large fires develop. Here we evaluate synoptic atmospheric conditions at the surface and free troposphere associated with anomalously high (active) versus low (inactive) months of area burned in south-central Chile (ca. 32–41° S) from the Chilean Forest Service (CONAF) record of area burned from 1984–2018. Active fire months are correlated with warm surface temperatures, dry conditions, and the presence of a circumpolar assemblage of high-pressure systems located ca. 40°–60° S. Additionally, warm surface temperatures associated with active fire months are linked to reduced strength of cool, onshore westerly winds and an increase in warm, downslope Andean Cordillera easterly winds. Episodic warm downslope winds and easterly wind anomalies superimposed on long-term warming and drying trends will continue to create conditions that promote large fires in south-central Chile. Identifying the mechanisms responsible for easterly wind anomalies and determining whether this trend is strengthening due to synoptic-scale climatic changes such as the poleward shift in Southern Hemisphere westerly winds will be critical for anticipating future large fire activity in south-central Chile. 
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  6. Abstract

    Climate change has contributed to recent declines in mountain snowpack and earlier runoff, which in turn have intensified hydrological droughts in western North America. Climate model projections suggest that continued and severe snowpack reductions are expected over the 21st century, with profound consequences for ecosystems and human welfare. Yet the current understanding of trends and variability in mountain snowpack is limited by the relatively short and strongly temperature forced observational record. Motivated by the urgent need to better understand snowpack dynamics in a long-term, spatially coherent framework, here we examine snow-growth relationships in western North American tree-ring chronologies. We present an extensive network of snow-sensitive proxy data to support high space/time resolution paleosnow reconstruction, quantify and interpret the type and spatial density of snow related signals in tree-ring records, and examine the potential for regional bias in the tree-ring based reconstruction of different snow drought types (dry versus warm). Our results indicate three distinct snow-growth relationships in tree-ring chronologies: moisture-limited snow proxies that include a spring temperature signal, moisture-limited snow proxies lacking a spring temperature signal, and energy-limited snow proxies. Each proxy type is based on distinct physiological tree-growth mechanisms related to topographic and climatic site conditions, and provides unique information on mountain snowpack dynamics that can be capitalized upon within a statistical reconstruction framework. This work provides a platform and foundational background required for the accelerated production of high-quality annually resolved snowpack reconstructions from regional to high (<12 km) spatial scales in western North America and, by extension, will support an improved understanding of the vulnerability of snowmelt-derived water resources to natural variability and future climate warming.

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