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1 June 2006 Origin and long-term dynamics of a subarctic tree line
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The basic unit of the forest-tundra landscape is a toposequence extending from a wet, forested valley to a xeric, deforested hilltop; the contact zone between these two environments being called a subarctic tree line. Dendrochronological analysis of living, dead, and subfossil black spruce, and radiocarbon dating of peat samples were used to reconstruct the dynamics of a subarctic tree line since its post-fire origin about 1000 y ago. Fire is not the sole disturbance to have influenced the dynamics of the toposequence. A regional-scale flooding event ca. 1120 AD killed many black spruce trees, growth of permafrost during the Little Ice Age, and its subsequent degradation in the 20th century, also had major consequences. The climate was favourable to black spruce growth between ca. 300 and 1100 AD, as evidenced by large growth rings and tree growth forms. Ring widths then decreased markedly between the 12th and 19th centuries and trees were replaced by stunted growth forms. Although climate warming during the 20th century resulted in increased ring widths, black spruces have still not produced tree growth forms, a necessary condition for viable seed production and eventual re-colonization of deforested hilltops.

Hugo Asselin and Serge Payette "Origin and long-term dynamics of a subarctic tree line," Ecoscience 13(2), 135-142, (1 June 2006).
Received: 9 December 2004; Accepted: 1 October 2005; Published: 1 June 2006

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