Environmental Research Letters
Spatial variability in the topoclimate-driven linkage between forest phenology and tree growth in complex terrain is poorly understood, limiting our understanding of how ecosystems function as a whole. To characterize the influence of topoclimate on phenology and growth, we determined the start, end, and length of the growing season (GS(start), GS(end), and GSL, respectively) using the correlation between transpiration and evaporative demand, measured with sapflow. We then compared these metrics with stem relative basal area increment (relative BAI) at seven sites among elevation and aspects in a Colorado montane forest. As elevation increased, we found shorter GSL (-50 d km(-1)) due to later GS(start) (40 d km(-1)) and earlier GS(end) (-10 d km(-1)). North-facing sites had a 21 d shorter GSL than south-facing sites at similar elevations (i.e. equal to 200 m elevation difference on a given aspect). Growing season length was positively correlated with relative BAI, explaining 83% of the variance. This study shows that topography exerts strong environmental controls on GSL and thus forest growth. Given the climate-related dependencies of these controls, the results presented here have important implications for ecosystem responses to changes in climate and highlight the need for improved phenology representation in complex terrain.
Molotch, Noah P.; Barnard, Holly R; and Barnard, D.M., "Topoclimate effects on growing season length and montane conifer growth in complex terrain" (2017). Geography Faculty Contributions. 21.