The deciduous forests of northeastern United States are currently experiencing an invasion of the exotic plant species Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). This recent and rapid invasion leads to rising concern about its potential threats to native species as well as natural ecosystems, demanding a better understanding of its invasion mechanisms and potential responses to climate change. Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted to understand the influence of climate on the growth of B. thunbergii, largely because of the absence of long-term growth records. In this study we demonstrate growth rings of B. thunbergii are annually resolved and crossdatable. The first ring-width chronology of B. thunbergii was therefore developed using samples collected from the Black Rock Forest (BRF), New York. Climate-growth relationship analysis indicates the growth of B. thunbergii in the BRF is positively correlated with precipitation in prior October, current February and May–August, but is negatively correlated with current March precipitation. The growth of B. thunbergii is also negatively correlated with temperatures in prior winter (November–January) and current summer (June–July), but is positively correlated with current spring temperature (March–May). These dendrochronological results on B. thunbergii, together with further physiological studies, will improve our understanding on how the growth of this invasive species is affected by local climate dynamics, as well as the long-term invasion potential that is tied to its responses to climate change.
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