Where, why and how? Explaining the low-temperature range limits of temperate tree species

Christian Körner, David Basler, Günter Hoch, Chris Kollas, Armando Lenz, Christophe F. Randin, Yann Vitasse & Niklaus E. Zimmerman

Résumé 1. Attempts at explaining range limits of temperate tree species still rest on correlations with climatic data that lack a physiological justification. Here, we present a synthesis of a multidisci- plinary project that offers mechanistic explanations. Employing climatology, biogeography, dendrol- ogy, population and reproduction biology, stress physiology and phenology, we combine results from in situ elevational (Swiss Alps) and latitudinal (Alps vs. Scandinavia) comparisons, from recip- rocal common garden and phytotron studies for eight European broadleaf tree species.
2. We show that unlike for low-stature plants, tree canopy temperatures can be predicted from weather station data, and that low-temperature extremes in winter do not explain range limits. At the current low-temperature range limit, all species recruit well. Transplants revealed that the local envi- ronment rather than elevation of seed origin dominates growth and phenology. Tree ring width at the range limit is not related to season length, but to growing season temperature, with no evidence of carbon shortage. Bud break and leaf emergence in adults trees are timed in such a way that the probability of freezing damage is almost zero, with a uniform safety margin across elevations and taxa. More freezing-resistant species flush earlier than less resistant species.
3. Synthesis: we conclude that the range limits of the examined tree species are set by the interactive influence of freezing resistance in spring, phenology settings, and the time required to mature tissue. Microevolution of spring phenology compromises between demands set by freezing resistance of young, immature tissue and season length requirements related to autumnal tissue maturation.
Citation Körner, C., Basler, D., Hoch, G., Kollas, C., Lenz, A., Randin, C. F., Vitasse, Y., & Zimmerman, N. E. (2016). Where, why and how? Explaining the low-temperature range limits of temperate tree species. Journal of ecology, in press, XX-XX.
Type Article de périodique (Anglais)
Date de publication 1-6-2016
Nom du périodique Journal of ecology
Volume in press
Pages XX-XX