Effect of climate on tree growth in the Pampa biome of Southeastern South America: First tree-ring chronologies from Uruguay

Christine Lucas, Paulina Puchi, Ludmila Profumo, Alex Ferreira, Ariel Muñoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Tree-ring research in the highland tropics and subtropics represents a major frontier for understanding climate-growth relationships. Nonetheless, there are many lowland regions – including the South American Pampa biome – with scarce tree ring data. We present the first two tree-ring chronologies for Scutia buxifolia in subtropical Southeastern South America (SESA), using 54 series from 29 trees in two sites in northern and southern Uruguay. We cross-dated annual rings and compared tree growth from 1950 to 2012 with regional climate variability, including rainfall, temperature and the Palmer Drought Severity Index – PDSI, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). Overall, ring width variability was highly responsive to climate signals linked to water availability. For example, tree growth was positively correlated with accumulated rainfall in the summer-fall prior to ring formation for both chronologies. Summer climate conditions were key for tree growth, as shown by a negative effect of hot summer temperatures and a positive correlation with PDSI in late austral summer. The El Niño phase in late spring/early summer favored an increase in rainfall and annual tree growth, while the La Niña phase was associated with less rainfall and reduced tree growth. Extratropical climate factors such as SAM had an equally relevant effect on tree growth, whereby the positive phase of SAM had a negative effect over radial growth. These findings demonstrate the potential for dendroclimatic research and climate reconstruction in a region with scarce tree-ring data. They also improve the understanding of how climate variability may affect woody growth in native forests – an extremely limited ecosystem in the Pampa biome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Dendroclimatology
  • Río de la Plata Basin
  • Scutia buxifolia, Uruguay
  • Subtropical dendrochronology


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