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Wetter summers mitigated temperature stress on Rocky Mountain forests during the last interglacial warm period
  • Max Berkelhammer,
  • Nadja Insel,
  • Ioana Cristina Stefanescu
Max Berkelhammer
University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Nadja Insel
Northeastern Illinois university, Northeastern Illinois university
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Ioana Cristina Stefanescu
University of Wyoming, University of Wyoming
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Rising summer temperatures are expected to increase tree mortality rates across the western United States. Here, we analyze subfossil wood samples from Colorado dating to the last interglacial to assess the response of two common conifers to a previous warm period. The trees experienced comparable growth rates and water use efficiency during the interglacial relative to modern despite evidence from model simulations of a ~30% increase in evaporative demand during the peak of the growing season. High-resolution isotopic analysis of the wood samples show an enrichment in the late season cellulosic δ18O relative to modern samples, which we find was associated with increased reliance on summer rain. The data are consistent with other proxy data and climate model simulations showing the interglacial was associated with wetter summers across the western US. We propose enhanced summer rain during this warm period compensated for drought stress imposed by higher evaporative demand.
28 Sep 2021Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 48 issue 18. 10.1029/2021GL093678