Climatic controls on peatland black spruce growth in relation to water table variation and precipitation

S. F. Dymond, A. W. D'Amato, R. K. Kolka, P. V. Bolstad, S. D. Sebestyen, K. Gill, M. T. Curzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Prior research has demonstrated the importance of water limitations and increasing temperatures on upland black spruce (Picea mariana [Mill.] B.S.P.) tree growth, which is a dominant component of the North American boreal forest. However, little work has been done to investigate the connectivity between growth and hydro-climate in peatland black spruce systems. The boreal forest is the largest global terrestrial biome and is highly threatened due to current and projected increases in temperatures for the northern latitudes. Here we explore the dynamics among annual black spruce growth, climate, and water table elevations using 45 years of in situ precipitation, temperature, and water table elevation coupled with dendrochronological analysis from six research peatlands at the Marcell Experimental Forest, MN, USA. From 1963 to 2010, we found weak relationships between water table elevation and black spruce growth at the six study sites. Instead, annual black spruce growth was most favourable during three climatic periods: (a) cool, moist conditions in mid-summer; (b) warm mid-spring temperatures; and (c) cool temperatures in the fall prior to the current growing season. The disconnect between black spruce growth and water table dynamics was surprising and suggests that either annual black spruce growth is minimally responsive to hydrological fluctuations at the timescale we analysed or there is great elasticity of black spruce growth to peatland water table and evapotranspiration dynamics under the range of hydrological fluctuations contained in our record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2137
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Erika Edison, Laura Nelson, and Benjamin Gosack for their assistance in the field and Tom Burke for assistance in processing of the tree cores. We appreciate meteorological data curation by Carrie Dorrance (Forest Service, retired), Deacon Kyllander (Forest Service, retired) for general field assistance, and a team of researchers and technicians at the MEF who have maintained the long-term dataset. We thank the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station for funding this project and for the participation of RKK, SDS, and other Forest Service employees in the project. The Department of Interior Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center partially funded this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Picea mariana
  • boreal forest
  • dendroclimatology
  • peatland
  • plant-water-use
  • water table fluctuation


Dive into the research topics of 'Climatic controls on peatland black spruce growth in relation to water table variation and precipitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this