Project

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Climate change and tree physiological response in Siberia and in the Alps during warm and cold periods of the last 1500 years

Applicant Saurer Matthias
Number 121838
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Labor für Atmosphärenchemie Paul Scherrer Institut
Institution of higher education Paul Scherrer Institute - PSI
Main discipline Climatology. Atmospherical Chemistry, Aeronomy
Start/End 01.02.2009 - 31.07.2011
Approved amount 217'005.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Climatology. Atmospherical Chemistry, Aeronomy
Geochemistry
Environmental Research

Keywords (12)

climate reconstruction; stable isotopes; tree rings; tree physiology; Boreal forests; elevated CO2; Siberia; Alps; Medieval optimum; Little ice age; photosynthesis; carbon dioxide

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
High-latitude and high-altitude forests are sensitive ecosystems that are more exposed to global warming in recent decades than forests of the temperate zones. As a result of the accelerating climate change, these forests may undergo severe changes regarding spatial distribution and species composition, the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles. This will have tremendous consequences for the sustainable functioning of the ecosystems and potential feedbacks to the atmosphere, such as increased release of greenhouse gases from soils. Insight into extreme past climate conditions and the response of Boreal and Alpine forests to these conditions provides an invaluable analogy for the potential future response. Trees from temperature-limited sites are known as sensitive proxies for climate reconstruction, while the availability of well-preserved wood in these regions enable the deciphering of past environmental conditions for centuries up to millennia.In this project, our main goal is to obtain a comprehensive description of the climatic and environmental changes during pronounced warm and cool periods of the past 1500 years. We want to achieve this goal by addressing the following three objectives:1) we aim to better quantify the magnitude of temperature and precipitation variability for known periods of extreme climate conditions, focusing on the cold anomaly around 536AD, the Medieval optimum period, the “little ice age” period and the last century,2) we will use the combined analysis of tree-ring width, carbon and oxygen isotopes and physiological models to decipher the response of the trees in terms of photosynthesis and water-use during these periods,3) and we want to determine the spatial and temporal coherence of large-scale climate events for Europe and northern Eurasia.We have access to unique dated tree-ring material from three sites in Northern Siberia and one site from the Alps that cover the investigation periods. We will use ring-width as a measure of growth and stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen of tree-ring cellulose as a measure of photosynthesis and water-use, while both isotopes are also related to temperature and precipitation. By applying a coupled photosynthesis-isotope fractionation model, which is driven by microclimate, photosynthesis, and soil water balance, we will be able to relate climatic to physiological changes. The results of the project will enable us to better understand the response of trees in temperature-limited environment to a changing climate.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A 350 year drought reconstruction from Alpine tree ring stable isotopes
Kress A., Saurer M., Siegwolf R. T. W., Frank D. C., Esper J., Bugmann H. (2010), A 350 year drought reconstruction from Alpine tree ring stable isotopes, in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 24, 1-2.
Spatial patterns of climatic changes in the Eurasian north reflected in Siberian larch tree-ring parameters and stable isotopes
Sidorova O. V., Siegwolf R. T. W., Saurer M., Naurzbaev1 M. M., Shashkin1 A. V., Vaganov1 E. A. (2010), Spatial patterns of climatic changes in the Eurasian north reflected in Siberian larch tree-ring parameters and stable isotopes, in Global Change Biology, 16, 1003-1018.
Twentieth century trends in tree ring stable isotopes (d13C and d18O) of Larix sibirica under dry conditions in the forest steppe in Siberia
Knorre A. A., Siegwolf R. T. W., Saurer M., Sidorova O. V., Vaganov E. A., Kirdyanov A. V. (2010), Twentieth century trends in tree ring stable isotopes (d13C and d18O) of Larix sibirica under dry conditions in the forest steppe in Siberia, in Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 115, 1-2.
Do centennial tree-ring and stable isotope trends of Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Rupr. indicate increasing water shortage in the Siberian north?
Sidorova O. V., Siegwolf R. T. W., Saurer M., Shashkin A. V., Knorre A. A., Prokushkin A. S., Vaganov E. A., Kirdyanov A. V. (2009), Do centennial tree-ring and stable isotope trends of Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Rupr. indicate increasing water shortage in the Siberian north?, in Oecologia, 161, 825-835.
Temperature versus species-specific influences on the stable oxygen isotope ratio of tree rings
Reynolds-Henne C. E., Saurer M., Siegwolf R. T. W. (2009), Temperature versus species-specific influences on the stable oxygen isotope ratio of tree rings, in Trees-Structure and Function, 23, 801-811.
A multi-proxy approach for revealing recent climatic changes in the Russian Altai
Olga V. Sidorova, Matthias Saurer, Vladimir S. Myglan, Anja Eichler, Margit Schwikowski, Aleksander V. Kirdyanov, Marina V. Bryukhanova, Oksana V. Gerasimova, Ivan A. Kalugin, Andrey V. Daryin, Rolf T. W. Siegwolf, A multi-proxy approach for revealing recent climatic changes in the Russian Altai, in Climate Dynamics, 1, 1-2.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Institute of Forest SB RAS, Krasnoyarsk Russia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Swiss Federal Research Insitute WSL Birmensdorf Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Wales, Swansea Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
111134 Climatic changes, tree-ring growth and C- and O-isotope variations along longitudinal transects in Siberia and in the Urals 01.11.2005 SCOPES
134864 Understanding the isotope signal of trees growing on continuous permafrost in northern Siberia 01.08.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
128035 Tree growth and forest ecosystem functioning in Eurasia under changing climate 01.11.2009 SCOPES
136295 iTREE-Long-term variability of tree growth in a changing environment - identifying physiological mechanisms using stable C and O isotopes in tree rings. 01.04.2012 Sinergia

Abstract

High-latitude and high altitude forests are sensitive ecosystems that are more exposed to global warming in recent decades than forests of the temperate zones. As a result of the accelerating climate change, these forests may undergo severe changes regarding spatial distribution and species composition, the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles. This will have tremendous consequences for the sustainable functioning of the ecosystems and potential feedbacks to the atmosphere, such as increased release of greenhouse gases from soils. Insight into extreme past climate conditions and the response of Boreal and Alpine forests to these conditions provides an invaluable analogy for the potential future response. Trees from temperature-limited sites are also known as sensitive proxies for climate reconstruction, while the availability of well-preserved wood in these regions enable the deciphering of past environmental conditions for centuries up to millennia.In this project, our main goal is to obtain a comprehensive description of the climatic and environmental changes during pronounced warm and cool periods of the past 1500 years. We want to achieve this goal by addressing the following three objectives:1) we aim to better quantify the magnitude of temperature and precipitation variability for known periods of extreme climate conditions, focusing on the cold anomaly around AD 536, the Medieval optimum period AD 900-1150, the maximum of the so-called “little ice age” period (AD 1600-1815) and the last century (1900 to present),2) we will use the combined analysis of tree-ring width, carbon and oxygen isotopes and physiological models to decipher the response of the trees in terms of photosynthesis and water-use during these periods,3) and we want to determine the spatial and temporal coherence of large-scale climate events for Europe and northern Eurasia.With the proposed periods, we cover climate anomalies on different time-scales (years to centuries), different rates of change (from sudden to gradual) and of different direction (warming or cooling). All these events are known to be large-scale events, but with different spatial extent. We have access to unique dated tree-ring material from three sites in Northern Siberia and one site from the Alps that cover the investigation periods. The site coverage will enable us to retrieve large-scale climatic connections, considering also oxygen isotope variations in ice-cores from Altai and Greenland and other published tree-ring records for comparison. We will use ring-width as a measure of growth and stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen of tree-ring cellulose as a measure of photosynthesis and water-use, while both isotopes are also related to temperature and precipitation. By applying a coupled photosynthesis-isotope fractionation model, which is driven by microclimate, photosynthesis, and soil water balance, we will be able to relate climatic to physiological changes. This project combines in an innovative way aspects of climatology, physiology and modeling, and applies them to a world-wide unique data set of historic wood. The results of the project will enable us to better understand the response of trees in temperature-limited environment to a changing climate.
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