Natural Resources, School of


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Published in Canadian Journal of Forest Research, doi 10.1139/cjfr-2018-0206


Remnant populations of Betula papyrifera have persisted in the Great Plains after the Wisconsin Glaciation along the Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska. Population health has declined in recent years, and has been hypothesized to be due to climate change. We used dendrochronological techniques to assess the response of B. papyrifera to microclimate (1950-2014), and satellite imagery [Landsat 5 TM (1985-2011) and MODIS (2000-2014)] derived NDVI as a proxy for population health. Growing-season streamflow and precipitation were positively correlated with raw and standardized tree-ring widths and basal area increment increase. Increasing winter and spring temperatures were unfavorable for tree growth while increasing summer temperatures were favorable in the absence of drought. The strongest predictor for standardized tree-rings was the Palmer Drought Severity Index, suggesting that B. papyrifera is highly responsive to a combination of temperature and water availability. The NDVI from vegetation community was positively correlated with standardized tree-ring growth, indicating the potential of these techniques to be used as a proxy for ex-situ monitoring of B. papyrifera. These results aid in forecasting the dynamics of the species in the face of climate variability and change in both remnant populations and across its current distribution in northern latitudes of North America.