Natural Resources, School of



Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Valentine Herrmann, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Christine R. Rollinson, Morton Arboretum
Bianca Gonzalez, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Erika B. Gonzalez-Akre, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Neil Pederson, Harvard University
M. Ross Alexander, Midwest Dendro LLC
Craig D. Allen, The University of New Mexico
Raquel Alfaro-Sánchez, Wilfrid Laurier University
Tala Awada, School of Natural Resources
Jennifer L. Baltzer, Wilfrid Laurier University
Patrick J. Baker, School of Ecosystem and Forest Science
Joseph D. Birch, University of Alberta
Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Thailand
Paolo Cherubini, Eidgenössische Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft WSL
Stuart J. Davies, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Cameron Dow, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Ryan Helcoski, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Jakub Kašpar, Vyzkumny ústav Silva Taroucy pro krajinu a okrasné zahradnictví, v.v.i.
James A. Lutz, Utah State University
Ellis Q. Margolis, United States Geological Survey
Justin T. Maxwell, Indiana University Bloomington
Sean M. McMahon, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Camille Piponiot, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Sabrina E. Russo, School of Biological Sciences
Pavel Šamonil, Vyzkumny ústav Silva Taroucy pro krajinu a okrasné zahradnictví, v.v.i.
Anastasia E. Sniderhan, Wilfrid Laurier University
Alan J. Tepley, Conservation and Research Center (National Zoo)
Ivana Vašíčková, Vyzkumny ústav Silva Taroucy pro krajinu a okrasné zahradnictví, v.v.i.
Mart Vlam, Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group
Pieter A. Zuidema, Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group

Document Type


Date of this Version



Glob Change Biol. 2022;28:245–266.

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15934


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs License


Tree rings provide an invaluable long-term record for understanding how climate and other drivers shape tree growth and forest productivity. However, conventional tree-ring analysis methods were not designed to simultaneously test effects of climate, tree size, and other drivers on individual growth. This has limited the potential to test ecologically relevant hypotheses on tree growth sensitivity to environmental drivers and their interactions with tree size. Here, we develop and apply a new method to simultaneously model nonlinear effects of primary climate drivers, reconstructed tree diameter at breast height (DBH), and calendar year in generalized least squares models that account for the temporal autocorrelation inherent to each individual tree's growth. We analyze data from 3811 trees representing 40 species at 10 globally distributed sites, showing that precipitation, temperature, DBH, and calendar year have additively, and often interactively, influenced annual growth over the past 120 years. Growth responses were predominantly positive to precipitation (usually over ≥3-month seasonal windows) and negative to temperature (usually maximum temperature, over ≤3-month seasonal windows), with concave-down responses in 63% of relationships. Climate sensitivity commonly varied with DBH (45% of cases tested), with larger trees usually more sensitive. Trends in ring width at small DBH were linked to the light environment under which trees established, but basal area or biomass increments consistently reached maxima at intermediate DBH. Accounting for climate and DBH, growth rate declined over time for 92% of species in secondary or disturbed stands, whereas growth trends were mixed in older forests. These trends were largely attributable to stand dynamics as cohorts and stands age, which remain challenging to disentangle from global change drivers. By providing a parsimonious approach for characterizing multiple interacting drivers of tree growth, our method reveals a more complete picture of the factors influencing growth than has previously been possible.