Warm summers and moderate winter precipitation boost Rhododendron ferrugineum L. growth in the Taillefer massif (French Alps)

Abstract : Rhododendron ferrugineum L. is a widespread dwarf shrub species growing in high-elevation, alpine environments of the Western European Alps. For this reason, analysis of its growth rings offers unique opportunities to push current dendrochronological networks into extreme environments and way beyond the treeline. Given that different species of the same genus have been successfully used in tree-ring investigations, notably in the Himalayas where Rhododendron spp. has proven to be a reliable climate proxy, this study aims at (i) evaluating the dendroclimatological potential of R. ferrugineum and at (ii) determining the major limiting climate factor driving its growth. To this end, 154 cross-sections from 36 R. ferrugineum individuals have been sampled above local treelines and at elevations from 1800 to 2100 m asl on northwest-facing slopes of the Taillefer massif (French Alps). We illustrate a 195-year-long standard chronology based on growth-ring records from 24 R. ferrugineum individuals, and document that the series is well-replicated for almost one century (1920–2015) with an Expressed Population Signal (EPS) > 0.85. Analyses using partial and moving 3-months correlation functions further highlight that growth of R. ferrugineum is governed by temperatures during the growing season (May–July), with increasingly higher air temperatures favoring wider rings, a phenomenon which is well known from dwarf shrubs growing in circum-arctic tundra ecosystems. Similarly, the negative effect of January–February precipitation on radial growth of R. ferrugineum, already observed in the Alps on juniper shrubs, is interpreted as a result of shortened growing seasons following snowy winters. We conclude that the strong and unequivocal signals recorded in the fairly long R. ferrugineum chronologies can indeed be used for climate–growth studies as well as for the reconstruction of climatic fluctuations in Alpine regions beyond the upper limits of present-day forests.
Document type :
Journal articles
Liste complète des métadonnées

Contributor : Erwan Roussel <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - 1:52:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, February 22, 2019 - 1:33:48 AM



Loïc Francon, C. Corona, Erwan Roussel, J. Lopez Saez, M. Stoffel. Warm summers and moderate winter precipitation boost Rhododendron ferrugineum L. growth in the Taillefer massif (French Alps). Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2017, 586, pp.1020 - 1031. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.02.083⟩. ⟨hal-01739824⟩



Record views