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Long-term growth-increment chronologies reveal diverse influences of climate forcing on freshwater and forest biota in the Pacific Northwest

January 1, 2015

Analyses of how organisms are likely to respond to a changing climate have focused largely on the direct effects of warming temperatures, though changes in other variables may also be important, particularly the amount and timing of precipitation. Here, we develop a network of eight growth-increment width chronologies for freshwater mussel species in the Pacific Northwest, United States and integrate them with tree-ring data to evaluate how terrestrial and aquatic indicators respond to hydroclimatic variability, including river discharge and precipitation. Annual discharge averaged across water years (October 1–September 30) was highly synchronous among river systems and imparted a coherent pattern among mussel chronologies. The leading principal component of the five longest mussel chronologies (1982–2003; PC1mussel) accounted for 47% of the dataset variability and negatively correlated with the leading principal component of river discharge (PC1discharge; r = −0.88; P < 0.0001). PC1mussel and PC1discharge were closely linked to regional wintertime precipitation patterns across the Pacific Northwest, the season in which the vast majority of annual precipitation arrives. Mussel growth was also indirectly related to tree radial growth, though the nature of the relationships varied across the landscape. Negative correlations occurred in forests where tree growth tends to be limited by drought while positive correlations occurred in forests where tree growth tends to be limited by deep or lingering snowpack. Overall, this diverse assemblage of chronologies illustrates the importance of winter precipitation to terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and suggests that a complexity of climate responses must be considered when estimating the biological impacts of climate variability and change.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Long-term growth-increment chronologies reveal diverse influences of climate forcing on freshwater and forest biota in the Pacific Northwest
DOI 10.1111/gcb.12756
Authors Bryan A. Black, Jason B. Dunham, Brett W. Blundon, Jayne Brim-Box, Alan J. Tepley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Change Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70144530
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center