date: Wed, 22 May 1996 16:16:26 -0500 (EST)
subject: IAI treelines meeting
Department of Geography,
University of Western Ontario,
Canada, N6A 3K1.
telephone 519-679-2111 ext 5012
May 21st, 1996
Last year the US National Science Foundation initiated the Inter American
Institute for Global Change Start-up Grant Program (IAISG). The objective of
these grants is to provide funds to facilitate the development of proposals that
address the IAI Science Agenda and will be submitted to IAI Phase II. Broadly
speaking this agenda addresses global change issues in the Americas and stresses
international scientific collaboration at the individual, institutional, national
and international levels.
Simultaneously a series of research initiatives were being developed in
conjunction with the PEP-1 (Americas) transect of IGBP PAGES. As a response to
both of these initiatives an IAISG proposal was developed to request funds for
a meeting of scientists to discuss and develop research proposals relating to
climate variability and change based on the natural archives found in treeline
environments along the American Cordillera. The concept was hold a meeting in
Canada in October 1996 with about 30-40 scientists drawn from the fields of
ecology, paleoecology, climatology, dendrochronology, quaternary geology/
geomorphology and glaciology. This proposal was recommended for IAI funding and,
though I have not yet received formal notification of funding from NSF, it is
expected within the next month. The meeting will be held in Jasper, Alberta,
Canada between ca. 5th-10th October 1996 (precise timing will be confirmed
later). A brief outline of the proposed meeting and the goals of this project are
I am writing to you at this time as one of the key participants to find out
whether you are interested in and able to attend this meeting and to provide some
preliminary details. In order to plan the program effectively I need some
information from potential participants and a realistic estimate of their travel
costs. The funds from IAI will not cover the entire cost of the meeting for all
participants and I am trying to obtain additional financial support for the
meeting from other sources. I anticipate that conference costs in Canada (i.e.
to and from Calgary) will be covered for all invited participants plus a major
part of their travel expenses but cannot give a firmer commitment until I have
a clearer picture of the total budget.
The first part of the meeting will consist of overview papers on selected topics
plus short presentations of recent results by participants. As you can see from
the attached outline the general focus is on treeline ecology/paleoecology;
dendrochronology and long records from these environments plus complementary high
(annual) resolution proxy climate data sets. The second part and major focus of
the meeting will consist of working group discussions targetted towards proposal
development which would be completed during the meeting. There will also be
opportunities to visit a number of classic treeline sites in the Canadian Rockies
(e.g. Peyto Lake, Athabasca Glacier\Sunwapta Pass).
- 2 -
At the present time I am requesting certain basic information from all potential
participants. I would be grateful if you could provide me with the information
requested on the attached list as soon as possible. I will contact you again,
hopefully within a month, with a list of confirmed participants and a tentative
program of presentations.
I hope that you will be able to join us in Jasper in October and that we will
have a very productive exchange of information and ideas that will lead to the
development of long term collaboration between participants relating to
global/climate change within the Americas. I look forward to hearing from you in
the near future.
P.S. Please excuse this formal letter. Other tree-ring people will include
malcolm, gordon, lisa, stahle, villalba, lara and boninsegna. My guess is you
might want to talk about methods but you might, I think, have some south American
stuff as well but we can discuss particulars later. At this stage I wanted to
let you know the dates and see whether you can be tempted to fit us into your
schedule. I will guarantee the Columbia Icefields but cannot promise the
weather will be as welcoming!!
Office Telephone Number
Home Telephone number
Office FAX number
Will you be able to attend the "treelines" meeting ca October 5-10 in Jasper,
Estimated travel cost to Calgary, Alberta (US $$ please)
(APEX or excursion fare, advanced booking, travel over a Saturday night)
Would you be able to meet partial travel costs to attend the meeting (this is not
a commitment but for information only at this stage)
Topics on which you would be prepared to contribute to the discussions (see
scientific themes attached) and area of specific regional expertise.
Are there any periods during the next 6 months when you will be away from your
home institution for periods of several weeks. If so could you provide an
alternative contact address for these periods.
THE ASSESSMENT OF PRESENT, PAST AND FUTURE CLIMATE VARIABILITY IN THE
AMERICAS FROM TREELINE ENVIRONMENTS
The PEP-1 transect in the Americas contains several unique geographical features
namely; (i) it is the longest contiguous latitudinal terrestrial transect on
earth; (ii) the western cordillera provide a physiographic unity to this transect
that is not found elsewhere at this scale; and, (iii) the juxtaposition of
mountains and ocean throughout the transect allow comparison of terrestrial and
marine records. Therefore the PEP-1 (Americas) transect offers unique
opportunities for collaborative scientific work that addresses; interhemispheric
comparisons between similar environments; comparison of records along major
latitudinal gradients; and comparison of adjacent terrestrial and oceanic
These latitudinal dimensions allow significant insight into global patterns of
climate change at various timescales that cannot easily be accomplished in other
areas of the world. Evaluation of these patterns can yield critical information
for the testing of ideas about forcing functions and controls of climate
variability at interannual and decade-to century timescales.
The presence of mountain environments throughout this transect is of paramount
significance because of the proven potential of these areas to yield high quality
paleoenvironmental data. The sharp environmental gradients allow the close
juxtaposition of diverse, climatically-sensitive, environments (e.g. glaciers,
upper and lower treelines, internally draining lake basins) that have the
potential to preserve relatively long, continuous records of environmental
changes. Upper and lower treeline areas provide the greatest opportunities
because of the strong contrasts in vegetation, microclimates and processes
between adjacent environments. Moreover, the severe environments (dry and/or
cold) adjacent to treelines are conducive to the preservation of evidence on or
near the surface that would quickly decay in more temperate environments. The
treelines of the Americas are also home to many of the longest-lived tree species
in the world. Thus, although the PEP-1 Americas Transect lacks the long
instrumental or human documentary records common in some other areas of the
world, it contains some of the best and longest high resolution natural archives.
A meeting will be held in Jasper, Alberta, Canada in early October 1996. The
meeting will involve scientists from a wide range of IAI member countries who
will review the present status and discuss the development of comparative studies
at treeline environments along the American cordillera that will;
(i) evaluate and benchmark the climate signals found at modern treeline sites
and determine the response of this sensitive environment to recent climate
(ii) develop a network of comparable high resolution proxy climate series that
show interannual climate variation at treeline over the last ca 1000 years for
(iii) utilise these data to examine the local and regional patterns of
interannual and longer term climate variability to develop data on key temporal
and spatial patterns of forcing functions.
SCIENTIFIC THEMES TO BE ADDRESSED
1. TREELINE ENVIRONMENTS AS ARCHIVES OF PAST CHANGES
(i) understanding the contemporary environments
(a) dynamics and characteristics of present treelines
fire and other natural hazards
regional differences (species, human interference etc)
(b) dendroclimatology and isotope dendroclimate of treeline sites
nature of the contemporary climate signal recovered from tree-ring studies at
approaches to the reconstruction of paleorecords from these data
(ii) paleoenvironmental reconstruction based on records from treeline sites in the
(a) reconstruction of recent trends from population and seedling studies- responses of
contemporary treelines to recent climate fluctuations and other controls (last 1-
(b) longer term histories based on macrofossil (subfossil) snag material on the surface
histories based on palynology and bog records macrofossils etc (last 1-2000 years?)
(c) proxy climate histories based on tree ring studies from treeline sites (width,
density,isotopes, last 1000 years)
(d) complementary histories based on other high resolution proxy data sources from this
(and adjacent) environments (glacier fluctuations, glacio-lacustrine and ice-core
2. INFERENCES ABOUT CLIMATE VARIABILITY, REGIONAL AND LOCAL TELECONNECTIONS BASED ON RECORDS
FROM NETWORKS OF TREELINE SITES
(a) climate variability at interannual, decadal and centennial timescales.
(b) environmental changes along latitudinal gradients
(c) interhemispheric comparison of high resolution proxy climate records.
(d) comparison of treeline environments with differing latitudes and hemispheres
(e) information from records about forcing functions
GOALS OF THE PROPOSED MEETING
1. Overview of existing state of knowledge in the SCIENTIFIC THEMES listed above (invited
review statements prepared for the meeting to form a basis for discussion).
2. Recognise obvious areas of existing strength and collaborative potential. Examples might
include, contrasts in the controls and history of treelines along the cordillera; differences
in response to past and present climate of treelines and tree-ring signals for different taxa
in different geographical regions; comparisons of glacier-treeline records of the American
cordillera and southern Andes.
3. Identify significant gaps in the site networks, available data or the techniques used.
There are major differences in the amount, detail and development of studies available along
this transect and it is clear that significant work is necessary within South and Central
America, and to a lesser extent Canada, to provide a balanced geographic network of sites.
4. Examine the existing database sources for material related to these projects. Several
research areas are well served in this regard- e.g. the International Tree-ring Databank,
existing Palynological and Ice core data bases- but the meeting may need to review the need
for repositories for new project data which does not fit easily into existing archives. This
would also involve the development of a series of data protocols for these materials.
5. Assess the scientific resources, personnel and areas for possible collaboration within the
research fields discussed and identify critical groups of researchers in each of these fields
to develop proposal/funding ideas. The goal would be to strengthen interhemispheric research
ties along the PEP-1 transect and open up and develop stronger research and institutional
links within the Americas. This could include recommendations for the development of programs
and/or facilities for the academic exchange of researchers and students between cooperating
6. Identify the critical research questions that should be addressed using the data presented
and discussed at the meeting.
7. Develop a long-term research strategy to address these questions that would also involve
international cooperation in facility and research personnel development. This would involve
a mix of research endeavours that; (i) could be accomplished from data exchange and
collaboration using presently available data; (ii) could be accomplished using data from
studies presently in progress or by minor updating of presently available data (e.g. tree-
ring chronologies); (iii) would require major new data collection initiatives. This would
involve the identification of key resources, geographic or thematic areas to be targeted for
8. Select material from these discussions for the development of a series of stage 2
9. Develop the outline, framework and timetable for a proceedings volume ("Treeline
Environments of the Americas") to address the main themes in (1) and perhaps some initial
comparative studies as discussed in (2). This might include the development of a reference
data base of compatible annually or decadally resolved time series from various proxy sources
for the use of researchers and/or students within this field.
10. Discuss the possibilities of continued monitoring (possibly in association with AMIGO or
IGBP monitoring programs) at selected treeline environments.
STRUCTURE OF MEETING
One Week (Saturday-Thursday) Four working days, one day at local treeline sites for field discussion of
Section 1: Present treelines- ecology, controls, north-south differences- recent dynamics
Section 2: High resolution records from treeline environments and other proxy data sources
Section 3: Climate variation at interannual to century timescales: spatial and temporal patterns.
Section 4: Review and development of proposals, preparation of meeting reports
General format (paper sessions)
a) Keynote- overview (probably separate regional accounts)-30/45 minutes
b) Individual case studies of new/ongoing projects (20 minutes)
c) Some initial comparative studies
d) Rapporteur's comments; identification of major themes/issues.
VENUE/ MEETING DETAILS
Locality: Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Conference Facility: Conference Hotel in Jasper
Dates: October 5 -10th, 1996.