Climatic controls on peatland black spruce growth in relation to water table variation and precipitation
Prior research has demonstrated the importance of water limitations and increasing temperatures on upland black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.] B.S.P.) tree growth, which is a dominant component of the North American boreal forest. However, little work has been done to investigate the connectivity between growth and hydro-climate in peatland black spruce systems. The boreal forest is the largest global terrestrial biome and is highly threatened due to current and projected increases in temperatures for the northern latitudes. Here we explore the dynamics among annual black spruce growth, climate, and water table elevations using 45 years of in situ precipitation, temperature, and water table elevation coupled with dendrochronological analysis from six research peatlands at the Marcell Experimental Forest, MN, USA. From 1963 to 2010, we found weak relationships between water table elevation and black spruce growth at the six study sites. Instead, annual black spruce growth was most favourable during three climatic periods: (a) cool, moist conditions in mid-summer; (b) warm mid-spring temperatures; and (c) cool temperatures in the fall prior to the current growing season. The disconnect between black spruce growth and water table dynamics was surprising and suggests that either annual black spruce growth is minimally responsive to hydrological fluctuations at the timescale we analysed or there is great elasticity of black spruce growth to peatland water table and evapotranspiration dynamics under the range of hydrological fluctuations contained in our record.