Pine trees enjoying Russian warmth

A study by Krasnoyarsk Science Centre in 2019 caught attention, highlighting how birch trees are ‘climbing mountains’ with e.g., the increases in temperature affecting their habitats. Researchers from the Botanic Garden Institute in Yekaterinburg and the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation in Xianyang, recently studied Pinus Sibirica species (Siberian cedar/stone pine) in the Ural Mountains.

Previous research has looked at the adult trees and the treeline based across two bordering ecologically diverse areas (eoctones). There have been morphological changes as well as overall community changes such as plant density. For this study, researchers wanted to assess the impact of climate changes such as air temperature increase on seed germination, survival and early pine tree growth in the highlands of the northern Urals. There has been an observed increase in regeneration since 1978.

The study area was 1010-1040 metres above sea level in stony shrub-moss lichen of the tundra. The pine tree species can be found across Siberia and northern Mongolia. The diversity of the species is affected by surrounding flora but also fauna such as chipmunks, squirrels, sables, bears and nutcracker birds. Seeds have been carried several kilometres.

They took twenty samples in 2014 and ten samples in 2018 then planted in rows, 100 metres away from each other in the tundra. They used a variety of measurements including height, trunk and crown diameters. The samples included seedlings and large trees.

Figure 4. P. sibirica growth characteristics common to the mountain tundra. The photo of the tree was taken by the researchers.

They compared their observations with existing climate data and found an overall warming trend affecting the seedlings but the intensity varies across months. They also found a long term increase in participation during March. They found a shift in the treeline:

“The obtained results complement the meta-analysis of annual tree line shift rates at 143 sites from 38 published studies [53] and clarify the impact temperature and precipitation have on Pinus sibirica regeneration. This is a certain combination of thermal and hydrological factors that drives treeline shift rates across the Northern Hemisphere [53]. The combination may include temperatures in early summer and precipitation in early winter [48,49], temperature–moisture correlations throughout the year [50], winter precipitation only (high snow depth) [14], and winter temperatures”

Ivanovo, Tantsyrev & Li (2022), https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4433/13/8/1196/htm

Overall, whilst growing slowly, the Pinus Sibirica is taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and continue to increase the rate of regeneration. They predict increases in root density and distribution over the next 20-50 years.

Ivanova N, Tantsyrev N and Li G 2022 Regeneration of Pinus sibirica Du Tour in the Mountain Tundra of the Northern Urals against the Background of Climate Warming Atmosphere 13 1196 Online: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/atmos13081196

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