Growth divergence – i.e. the expression of divergent growth trends of neighboring trees – has certain implications for dendrochronological research, for instance in the context of climate reconstructions but also in terms of estimating net ecosystem productivity. Thus, understanding the underlying mechanisms is essential to extend our fundamental dendroecological knowledge. In this context, the Picea genus plays an important role since several of its species were reported to exhibit growth divergence. Here, we investigate a well sampled Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst) data set for growth divergence comprising ring-width and Blue Intensity measurements from seven sites on Babia Góra Mountain, at the border between Poland and Slovakia. By means of Principal Component Gradient Analysis, inter-series correlations, and climate growth relationships, we are able to show that I) Norway spruce on Babia Góra expressed growth divergence since the 1970s, II) the definition of groups increased the strength of population signals and the stability of climate-growth relationships, and III) Blue Intensity appeared as a more robust proxy for environmental conditions. We discuss soil heterogeneity, genetics, and air pollution as possible underlying mechanisms, thereby indicating further research avenues to obtain a better understanding of growth divergence.
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