We examined the radial growth—climate association of a disjunct population of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) at its southern limit of distribution. Forty-four white spruce tree islands were sampled over four mixed-grass prairie preserves in the Spruce Woods Provincial Park located in the forest-prairie boundary of southwestern Manitoba. Reduced radial growth occurred during the 1910s, 1930s, early 1960s, and the late 1970s to the early 1980s and corresponded to periods of drought on the Canadian prairies, and the Great Plains of the United States. Correlation and response function coefficients indicated that conditions in the summer and fall of the previous year (t-1), and the summer of the current year (t) strongly influenced white spruce growth. Growth was positively correlated with August–September (t-1) and May–June–July (t) precipitation and moisture index (precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration). Radial growth was positively associated with June–July–August (t) river discharge. Growth was most correlated with maximum and mean temperature compared with minimum temperature. Precipitation and maximum temperature accounted for the greatest variation in radial growth (61%). The results suggest that white spruce growth is sensitive to climatic fluctuations because growth is restricted by moisture deficiency exacerbated by temperature-induced drought stress.
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