The Impacts of Elevation and Climate on the Growth of Pinus sylvestris

Open Access
James, Dana Marie
Area of Honors:
Environmental Resource Management
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Margot Wilkinson Kaye, Thesis Supervisor
  • Robert David Shannon, Honors Advisor
  • Robert David Shannon, Faculty Reader
  • Scots pine
  • growth rates
  • climate change
  • Spain
The Mediterranean region is predicted to undergo significant warming and drying in the future (IPCC, 2007). This will pose a challenge to sensitive species in the region, and especially to those that are already at their southern limit. One such “rear edge” species is Pinus sylvestris, or Scots pine. Scots pine is an important keystone species throughout Europe, and is able to tolerate a variety of climatic conditions. At its southern limit in Spain, Scots pine distribution is limited by high temperatures and drought. Therefore, distributional patterns, recruitment, and growth rates of Scots pine may be expected to change in the future in rear edge populations in Spain as this area is expected to become more drought-prone (hotter and drier). This study investigates how climate and elevation affect growth rates of Scots pine in the Spanish Pyrenees. By analyzing past and current growth rates of these trees, the scientific community will be able to understand the implications of climate and elevation on the growth of Scots pine at its southern limit in the future. The results of this research indicate that from 1970-1985 the trees at the sites of lower elevation have had higher growth rates, but since 1985 the growth rates of trees at these sites have been significantly declining, while the trees at the higher elevations have not had declining growth rates. This may signify that, in the face of warming and drying in this region, the trees at the higher elevations will be more resilient to the changing climate. Additionally, the results imply that complex topographical features and climate can create quite suitable and habitable microclimates for Scots pine – even for “rear edge” populations.