Methods for measuring arctic and alpine shrub growth: A review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Shrubs have increased in abundance and dominance in arctic and alpine regions in recent decades. This often dramatic change, likely due to climate warming, has the potential to alter both the structure and function of tundra ecosystems. The analysis of shrub growth is improving our understanding of tundra vegetation dynamics and environmental changes. However, dendrochronological methods developed for trees, need to be adapted for the morphology and growth eccentricity of shrubs. Here, we review current and developing methods to measure radial and axial growth, estimate age, and assess growth dynamics in relation to environmental variables. Recent advances in sampling methods, analysis and applications have improved our ability to investigate growth and recruitment dynamics of shrubs. However, to extrapolate findings to the biome scale, future dendroecological work will require improved approaches that better address variation in growth within parts of the plant, among individuals within populations and between species.


  • Isla H. Myers-Smith
  • Martin Hallinger
  • Daan Blok
  • Ute Sass-Klaassen
  • Shelly A. Rayback
  • Stef Weijers
  • Andrew J. Trant
  • Ken D. Tape
  • Adam T. Naito
  • Sonja Wipf
  • Christian Rixen
  • Melissa A. Dawes
  • Julia A. Wheeler
  • Agata Buchwal
  • Claudia Baittinger
  • Marc Macias-Fauria
  • Bruce C. Forbes
  • Esther Lévesque
  • Noémie Boulanger-Lapointe
  • Ilka Beil
  • And 2 others
  • Virve Ravolainen
  • Martin Wilmking
External organisations
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Wageningen University
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Bonn
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Texas A and M University
  • WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
  • National Museum of Denmark
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Lapland
  • University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Greifswald
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography


  • Dendrochronology, Dendroecology, Growth rings, Shrub, Stem increments, Tundra
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes