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Tree Rings Introduction



Data Analysis


Dendrochronology (dendron = tree, chronos = time, logos = the science of) is defined as the science that uses tree rings dated to their exact year of formation to analyze temporal and spatial patterns in the physical and cultural sciences. Analysis of tree ring widths can be used to reconstruct both gradual and abrupt changes in the climate of the past as well as historical occurrences of major disturbances such as fire, drought, and insect outbreaks.

Diameter growth of trees in the North Temperate Zone is typically characterized by a single annual ring. In addition to variation caused by species, age, and soil conditions, the width of the growth ring depends upon the weather conditions and disturbance patterns of the current year. Temperature and soil water appear to be most highly correlated to changes in ring widths.

The ability to use tree rings to make predictions about the environment of the past is dependent upon the Principle of Limiting Factors. This priniciple states that rates of plant processes occur only as fast as allowed by the factor that is most limiting. For example, if rainfall is the most limiting factor, then the radial growth produced by a tree in any single year will reflect mostly the amount of rainfall that fell within that year.

Dendrochronology is important not only as a tool to characterize the climate and environmental patterns of the past, it is also used to study forest age structures, growth rates, disturbance regimes, etc to aid in the proper management of forested lands.

 To learn more about dendrochronology visit these sites:

Professor Dan Vogt, Anne Eschtruth, and Mariana

Upmeyer discussing the priniciples of dendrochronology.

Tree ring pages by Anne Eschtruth

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Methods of Ecosystem Analysis-Yale Forestry School
Date Last Modified: 4/22/99
F&ES 519B, Spring 1999