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On the influence of tree size on the climate–growth relationship of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis): insights from annual, monthly and daily growth patterns

Wunder, Jan; Fowler, Anthony M.; Cook, Edward R.; Pirie, Maryann; McCloskey, Shane P. J.

Many tree-ring-based climate reconstructions are based on the assumption that the climate reaction of trees is independent of their size. Here, we test this assumption for New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis), one of the longest tree ring-based proxies for the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The most recent kauri chronology contains a large amount of archaeological material, e.g. timber for which the original tree size is often unknown. We analyzed the climate–growth relationship of different-sized kauri in a pristine forest using different temporal scales, i.e. annually, monthly and daily data on tree growth and climate conditions. Trees of different life stages exhibited approximately the same seasonal growth peaks during austral spring (October and November). The dormancy period overlaps with the period where weekly air temperature maxima are below ca. 17–18 °C, and where the corresponding daily minima are below ca. 8 °C. However, both correlation functions between annual growth and seasonal climate as well as Kalman filter regressions between daily growth and climate conditions suggest an influence of tree size on the climate–growth relationship for kauri. Smaller trees (DBH < 40 cm) contain weaker climate signals than larger trees. Therefore, the precautionary stripping of near-pith material (first 20 cm) from kauri chronologies may result in more uniform responses to climate forcing and thus enhance the reliability of long-term climate reconstructions.

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
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March 13, 2013