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Climate Change Increases Drought Stress of Juniper Trees in the Mountains of Central Asia

Journal article
Authors Andrea Seim
Gulzar Omurova
Erlan Azisov
Kanaat Musuraliev
Kumar Aliev
Timur Tulyaganov
Lyutsian Nikolyai
Evgeniy Botman
Gerd Helle
Isabel Liñan Dorado
Sandra Jivcov
Hans W. Linderholm
Published in PLoS ONE
Volume 11
Issue 4
Pages artikel nr e0153888
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages artikel nr e0153888
Language en
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Climate Research, Botany


Assessments of climate change impacts on forests and their vitality are essential for semi-arid environments such as Central Asia, where the mountain regions belong to the globally important biodiversity hotspots. Alterations in species distribution or drought-induced tree mortality might not only result in a loss of biodiversity but also in a loss of other ecosystem services. Here, we evaluate spatial trends and patterns of the growth-climate relationship in a tree-ring network comprising 33 juniper sites from the northern Pamir-Alay and Tien Shan mountain ranges in eastern Uzbekistan and across Kyrgyzstan for the common period 1935–2011. Junipers growing at lower elevations are sensitive to summer drought, which has increased in intensity during the studied period. At higher elevations, juniper growth, previously favored by warm summer temperatures, has in the recent few decades become negatively affected by increasing summer aridity. Moreover, response shifts are observed during all seasons. Rising temperatures and alterations in precipitation patterns during the past eight decades can account for the observed increase in drought stress of junipers at all altitudes. The implications of our findings are vital for the application of adequate long-term measures of ecosystem conservation, but also for paleo-climatic approaches and coupled climate-vegetation model simulations for Central Asia.

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