The broad climate gradient of the slopes of the western Sierra Nevada mountains supports ecosystems spanning extremes of productivity, biomass, and function. We are using this natural environmental gradient to understand how climate controls NPP, aboveground biomass, species' range limits, and phenology. Our experimental approach combines eddy covariance, sap flow, dendrometer, and litterfall measurements in combination with soil and hydrological data from the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (SSCZO). We have found that above about 2500 m, forest productivity is limited by winter cold, while below 1200 m, productivity is likely limited by summer drought. The sweet spot between these elevations has a nearly year-long growing season despite a snowpack that persists for as long as six months. Our results show that small differences in temperature can markedly alter the water balance and productivity of mixed conifer forests.
Kelly, A.E., Goulden, M.L. (2010): Climate controls on forest productivity along the climate gradient of the western Sierra Nevada. Fall meeting, American Geophysical Union, December 2010. Abstract B23C-0405..