Summer temperature—but not growing season length—influences radial growth of Salix arctica in coastal Arctic tundra

Joseph S. Boyle*, Sandra Angers-Blondin, Jakob J. Assmann, Isla H. Myers-Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arctic climate change is leading to an advance of plant phenology (the timing of life history events) with uncertain impacts on tundra ecosystems. Although the lengthening of the growing season is thought to lead to increased plant growth, we have few studies of how plant phenology change is altering tundra plant productivity. Here, we test the correspondence between 14 years of Salix arctica phenology data and radial growth on Qikiqtaruk–Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, Canada. We analysed stems from 28 individuals using dendroecology and linear mixed-effect models to test the statistical power of growing season length and climate variables to individually predict radial growth. We found that summer temperature best explained annual variation in radial growth. We found no strong evidence that leaf emergence date, earlier leaf senescence date, or total growing season length had any direct or lagged effects on radial growth. Radial growth was also not explained by interannual variation in precipitation, MODIS surface greenness (NDVI), or sea ice concentration. Our results demonstrate that at this site, for the widely distributed species S. arctica, temperature—but not growing season length—influences radial growth. These findings challenge the assumption that advancing phenology and longer growing seasons will increase the productivity of all plant species in Arctic tundra ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1257-1270
Number of pages14
JournalPolar biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2022


  • Dendroecology
  • Growth
  • Phenology
  • Shrub
  • Tundra


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