New publication on Alaska Yellow Cedar

The fate of Alaska yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis D. Don; Oerst. ex D.P. Little) in a changing climate is a fascinating tale. Our collaborator, Lauren Oakes published a book last year called the Canary Tree which is a story of yellow-cedar (YC) and her research. The crux of the story is that increased temperatures and loss of snow pack make fine roots of the YC more vulnerable to frost damage and, in some instances, this freezing is killing extensive stands of the tree.

Three of the students who helped sample the trees in Juneau during the summer of 2017 (photo credit: Jesse Wiles).

Brian Buma, also a recent collaborator and author on our contribution, has written several articles describing the biogeography of YC decline. His work includes (Buma, 2018) the thought that with rapid enough rates of warming in Southeast Alaska, the population of YC may not be vulnerable if the warming also decreases the frost threat. This work is informed by mapping of the southern limit of the species, which is thriving in  Oregon and Washington where winter temperatures are well above 0 degrees C. The leading edge of the decline is most vulnerable as the mean winter temperatures are in the range of between -2 and +2 degrees C. Our study sites in Juneau are entering this temperature range and thus are/will be impacted by warming winters and the transition from snow to rain.

Location of study sites.

Our new paper titled:Yellow-Cedar Blue Intensity Tree Ring Chronologies as Records of Climate, Juneau, Alaska, USA appeared  in the Canadian Journal of Forestry Research and describes well-replicated tree-ring chronologies made up of ring-width and latewood blue intensity measurements. Where previously YC has not been considered to be a strong candidate for reconstructing past climate, we have found that blue intensity measurements have a strong signal much stronger than ring-widths.

The Abstract of our paper is here: This is the first study to generate and analyze the climate signal in Blue Intensity (BI) tree-ring chronologies from Alaskan yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis D. Don; Oerst. ex D.P. Little). The latewood BI chronology shows a much stronger temperature sensitivity than ring-widths (RW), and thus can provide information on past climate. The well-replicated BI chronology exhibits a positive January-August average maximum temperature signal for 1900-1975, after which it loses temperature sensitivity following the 1976/77 shift in northeast Pacific climate. This is a temporary loss of temperature sensitivity from about 1976 to 1999 that is not evident in RW or in a change in forest health but is consistent with prior work linking cedar decline to warming. The positive temperature response of BI after 1999 suggests a recovery, which remains strong for the most recent decades, although the coming years will continue to test this observation. A confounding factor is the uncertain influence of a shift in color variation from the heartwood/sapwood boundary. Future expansion of the yellow-cedar BI network and further investigation of the influence of the heartwood/sapwood transitions in the BI signal will lead to a better understanding of the utility of this species as a climate proxy.

References:
Buma, B. 2018. Transitional climate mortality: slower warming may result in increased climate-induced mortality in some systems. Ecosphere 9: e02170.

Wiles G, Charlton J, Wilson R, D’Arrigo R, Buma B, Krapek J, Gaglioti B, Wiesenberg N, Oelkers R., 2019, Yellow-cedar blue intensity tree ring chronologies as records of climate and forest-climate response, Juneau, Alaska, USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2018-0525.

 

Four New Publications from the Wooster Tree Ring Lab

Four new studies from the Wooster Tree Ring Lab have recently appeared in Ecology, Journal of Geophysical Research – Biosciences, The Holoceneand Chemosphere.

Brian Buma lead the study published in Ecologythat described the results of revisiting a classic ecological succession site in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The article is titled100 years of primary succession highlights stochasticity and competition driving community establishment and stabilityWe blogged about some of the fieldwork for this study a few years ago here.

Abstract: The study of community succession is one of the oldest pursuits in ecology. Challenges remain in terms of evaluating the predictability of succession and the reliability of the chronosequence methods typically used to study community development. The research of William S. Cooper in Glacier Bay National Park is an early and well‐known example of successional ecology that provides a long‐term observational dataset to test hypotheses derived from space‐for‐time substitutions. It also provides a unique opportunity to explore the importance of historical contingencies and as an example of a revitalized historical study system. We test the textbook successional trajectory in Glacier Bay and evaluate long‐term plant community development via primary succession through extensive fieldwork, remote sensing, dendrochronological methods, and newly discovered data that fills in data gaps (1940’s to late 1980’s) in continuous measurement over 100+ years. To date, Cooper’s quadrats do not support the classic facilitation model of succession in which a sequence of species interacts to form predictable successional trajectories. Rather, stochastic early community assembly and subsequent inhibition have dominated; most species arrived shortly after deglaciation and have remained stable for 50+ years. Chronosequence studies assuming prior composition are thus questionable, as no predictable species sequence or timeline was observed. This underscores the significance of assumptions about early conditions in chronosequences and the need to defend such assumptions. Furthermore, this work brings a classic study system in ecology up to date via a plot size expansion, new baseline biogeochemical data, and spatial mapping for future researchers for its second century of observation.

Photo taken in the West Arm of Glacier Bay close to where the Cooper plots were “rediscovered” by Buma and others.

 

Dr. Ben Gaglioti (University of Alaska – Fairbanks) and collaborators just published another innovative study. This time Ben has assembled a time series of traumatic resin ducts (TRDs) in mountain hemlock that  is a record of past winter conditions and the strength of the Aleutian Low. The article appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

The study included tree-ring records from four wild outer coast sites along the the Gulf of Alaska. This is the first work to use these TRD features in tree-rings as a proxy for winter storminess.

a – The clearly-stressed trees used in this study. b – Careful observations and measurements from increment cores were taken to work out the timing of maximum wind stress and storminess. c, d –  Examples of Traumatic Resin Ducts in the tree rings.

Once assembled, the decadal variability of the winter time record was clearly related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (see below). This new record is the first of its kind and gives us a new record of wintertime variability from the North Pacific.

Figure above shows a frequency diagram TRDs compared with indices of winter Pacific decadal variability. The records compare favorably giving us confidence in this new proxy technique and Ben’s interpretations.
Ben used some of the archives of the Wooster Tree Ring Lab as part of this study and his new technique is one that the Wooster lab can adopt and learn as we continue to analyze new collections and re-analyze our past collections.

 

Rob Wilson (University of St. Andrews) lead a study from the Yukon. He used blue intensity tree-ring records from white spruce to improve dendroclimatic temperature reconstructions from the southern Yukon.

The study is titled: Improved dendroclimatic calibration using blue intensity in the southern Yukon. and the abstract reads like this: In north-western North America, the so-called divergence problem (DP) is expressed in tree ring width (RW) as an unstable temperature signal in recent decades. Maximum latewood density (MXD), from the same region, shows minimal evidence of DP. While MXD is a superior proxy for summer temperatures, there are very few long MXD records from North America. Latewood blue intensity (LWB) measures similar wood properties as MXD, expresses a similar climate response, is much cheaper to generate and thereby could provide the means to profoundly expand the extant network of temperature sensitive tree-ring (TR) chronologies in North America. In this study, LWB is measured from 17 white spruce sites (Picea glauca) in south-western Yukon to test whether LWB is immune to the temporal calibration instabilities observed in RW. A number of detrending methodologies are examined. The strongest calibration results for both RW and LWB are consistently returned using age-dependent spline (ADS) detrending within the signal-free (SF) framework. RW data calibrate best with June–July maximum temperatures (Tmax), explaining up to 28% variance, but all models fail validation and residual analysis. In comparison, LWB calibrates strongly (explaining 43–51% of May–August Tmax) and validates well. The reconstruction extends to 1337 CE, but uncertainties increase substantially before the early 17th century because of low replication. RW-, MXD- and LWB-based summer temperature reconstructions from the Gulf of Alaska, the Wrangell Mountains and Northern Alaska display good agreement at multi-decadal and higher frequencies, but the Yukon LWB reconstruction appears potentially limited in its expression of centennial-scale variation. While LWB improves dendroclimatic calibration, future work must focus on suitably preserved sub-fossil material to increase replication prior to 1650 CE.

The Figure above shows the location of the Yukon study site and includes various other sites the Wooster lab has worked on in Alaska. Rob has been a great help in the efforts at the Wooster Tree Ring Lab facilitating our lab’s ability to perform these analyses.

 

Mary Garvin (Biology, Oberlin College) lead the study using tree-rings and chemical analyses entitled: A survey of trace metal burdens in increment cores from eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) across a childhood cancer cluster, Sandusky County, OH, USA.  

Abstract: A dendrochemical study of cottonwood trees (Populus deltoides) was conducted across a childhood cancer cluster in eastern Sandusky County (Ohio, USA). The justification for this study was that no satisfactory explanation has yet been put forward, despite extensive local surveys of aerosols, groundwater, and soil. Concentrations of eight trace metals were measured by ICP-MS in microwave-digested 5-year sections of increment cores, collected during 2012 and 2013. To determine whether the onset of the first cancer cases could be connected to an emergence of any of these contaminants, cores spanning the period 1970–2009 were taken from 51 trees of similar age, inside the cluster and in a control area to the west. The abundance of metals in cottonwood tree annual rings served as a proxy for their long-term, low-level accumulation from the same sources whereby exposure of the children may have occurred. A spatial analysis of cumulative metal burdens (lifetime accumulation in the tree) was performed to search for significant ‘hotspots’, employing a scan statistic with a mask of variable radius and center. For Cd, Cr, and Ni, circular hotspots were found that nearly coincide with the cancer cluster and are similar in size. No hotspots were found for Co, Cu, and Pb, while As and V were largely below method detection limits. Whereas our results do not implicate exposure to metals as a causative factor, we conclude that, after 1970, cottonwood trees have accumulated more Cd, Cr, and Ni, inside the childhood cancer cluster than elsewhere in Sandusky County.

Figure that shows the extent of the cancer cluster that coincides with more accumulated Cd, Cr and Ni in the tree-rings.

Tree Corps Visits the Lab

Tree Corpsvisits the Wooster Tree Ring Lab. Tree Corps is a program run out of the Holden Arboretum designed to provide training to the arboriculture workforce in the Cleveland Area. It is funded by the Cleveland Foundation and this is the second year the group has visited Wooster. We all learned a lot from each other and everyone got to core some of the oaks on campus with the end of assessing tree health and age.

The group discusses the information that can be derived from the tree-ring record. This black oak shows outward signs of deterioration, however inside it is solid. In terms of management, the location of the tree with respect to foot traffic,  balanced with other pressing tree issues across campus, all need to be considered when assessing the possible removal of this tree.

Nick extracts a core from the oak and discusses the reasons for the various discolorations of the wood.

Josh Charlton (class of 2019, purple shirt) was visiting the lab and offers some advice in coring – thanks Josh for your help.

 

 

 

 

 

We also spent some time coring pin oaks on campus. Great fast growing trees – the group mounted up the cores and analysis of the tree rings is underway. Thanks to Tree Corps for making it down to the lab, we look forward to following the future progress of the group in arboriculture.

A new tree ring study from the Himalaya by the WTRL

The Wooster Tree Ring Lab collaborated on a publication describing the recent thermal history of the Lidder Valley, Northwest Himalaya. Dr. Santosh Shah, the lead author, is a multitalented paleoclimatologist at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciencesin Locknow, India. He and his colleagues led the study that appeared in Climate Dynamics and is titled: A winter temperature reconstruction for the Lidder Valley, Kashmir, Northwest Himalaya based on tree-rings of Pinus wallichiana. Here is the abstract from the study:

Abstract:A regional, 175 year long, tree-ring width chronology (spanning 1840–2014 C.E.) was developed for Pinus wallichiana A. B. Jacks. (Himalayan Blue pine) from the Lidder Valley, Kashmir, Northwest Himalaya. Simple and seasonal correlation analysis (SEASCORR) with monthly climate records demonstrates a significant direct positive relationship of tree growth with winter temperature. A linear regression model explains 64% of the total variance of the winter temperature and is used to reconstruct December–March temperatures back to 1855 C.E. The most noticeable feature of the reconstruction is a marked warming trend beginning in the late twentieth century and persisting through the present. This reconstruction was compared with instrumental records and other proxy based local and regional temperature reconstructions and generally agrees with the tree-ring records and is consistent with the marked loss of glacial ice over the last few decades. Spectral analysis reveals a periodicity likely associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Spatial cor- relation patterns of sea surface temperatures with the observed and reconstructed winter temperatures are consistent with larger scale warming in the region.

Map showing the location of the study in the Lidder Valley in Kashmir, Northwest India.

The rivers of the Lidder Valley are fed by glaciers from the Himalaya, which are becoming increasingly impacted by climate change and population pressures. The people within the valley depends on the water from the rivers and managing the water in this rapidly warming region is an increasing challenge. The results in this work show the increasing pace of the recent warming (see figure below).

Temperature reconstructions (above) based on tree-rings for the Himalaya. The curve on the top is from the new publication. 

Dr. Shah is now working on using tree-rings to reconstruct river flow in the region. This is work that he presented last year at World Dendro in Bhutanand which we are are also collaborators. We are grateful to Dr . Shah for introducing us to climate change research in the Himalaya AND for his help to our former students of the Wooster Tree Ring Lab.

Jeff Gunderson,  who recently completed his masters thesis at The Ohio State University in Geography used tree-rings from the Peruvian Andes to reconstruct climate. Jeff collaborated with Dr. Shah who shared his computer code and guidance in calibrating his Peruvian tree-ring records.

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New Paper on an Alaskan Glacier

Dr. Ben Gaglioti (Lamont-Doherty Tree Ring Laband University of Alaska – Fairbanks) just published an article entitled: Timing and Potential Causes of 19th-Century Glacier Advances in Coastal Alaska Based on Tree-Ring Dating and Historical Accounts. Three of the coauthors include Wooster Earth Scientists and Tree Ring Labworkers, Josh Charlton (’19), Nick Wiesenberg (Department technician) and Dr. Wiles (Earth Sciences faculty). This contribution describes the Little Ice Glacier History of LaPerouse Glacier on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

Dr Gaglioti did a great job putting together the glacial chronology for the site, and then coming up with some new ideas explaining why this glacier advanced to its Holocene maximum between CE 1850 and 1890. This was a time when it was not as cold as some other times within this broad interval (~ CE 1250-1850) we call the Little Ice Age. Dr. Gaglioti draws on some new and not-so-new proxy records that show a strengthening of the Aleutian Low over the past several 100 years and he suggests that the cooler summer temperatures aided by increased winter snowfall forced this glacier to its maximum extent. His methods and presentation in this paper are new and provide some excellent possibilities for future work by Wooster students. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Dr. Gaglioti.

The photos below are from Dr. Gaglioti and show (top) the location of the glacier, (middle) the setting of the buried forest he discovered, and (bottom) what the amazing pristine trees look like as the ice retreats. Within this buried forest is also the first Alaskan Cedar paleo-forest that has been discovered. Here is a linkto a National Geographic sponsored blog describing some of the field work. Special thanks to Lauren Oakes for her excellent blog. The project was partially supported by the National Geographic Society, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the National Science Foundation.

Warming at the Third Pole, Northwest Kashmir and Tree Rings

The Wooster Tree Ring Lab collaborated on a publication describing the recent thermal history of the Lidder Valley, Northwest Himalaya. Dr. Santosh Shah, the lead author, is a multitalented paleoclimatologist at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Locknow, India. He and his colleagues led the study that appeared in Climate Dynamics and is titled: A winter temperature reconstruction for the Lidder Valley, Kashmir, Northwest Himalaya based on tree-rings of Pinus wallichiana. Here is the abstract from the study:

Abstract: A regional, 175 year long, tree-ring width chronology (spanning 1840–2014 C.E.) was developed for Pinus wallichiana A. B. Jacks. (Himalayan Blue pine) from the Lidder Valley, Kashmir, Northwest Himalaya. Simple and seasonal correlation analysis (SEASCORR) with monthly climate records demonstrates a significant direct positive relationship of tree growth with winter temperature. A linear regression model explains 64% of the total variance of the winter temperature and is used to reconstruct December–March temperatures back to 1855 C.E. The most noticeable feature of the reconstruction is a marked warming trend beginning in the late twentieth century and persisting through the present. This reconstruction was compared with instrumental records and other proxy based local and regional temperature reconstructions and generally agrees with the tree-ring records and is consistent with the marked loss of glacial ice over the last few decades. Spectral analysis reveals a periodicity likely associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Spatial cor- relation patterns of sea surface temperatures with the observed and reconstructed winter temperatures are consistent with larger scale warming in the region.

Map showing the location of the study in the Lidder Valley in Kashmir, Northwest India.

The rivers of the Lidder Valley are fed by glaciers from the Himalaya, which are becoming increasingly impacted by climate change and population pressures. The people within the valley depends on the water from the rivers and managing the water in this rapidly warming region is an increasing challenge. The results in this work show the increasing pace of the recent warming (see figure below).

Temperature reconstructions (above) based on tree-rings for the Himalaya. The curve on the top is from the new publication. 

Dr. Shah is now working on using tree-rings to reconstruct river flow in the region. This is work that he presented last year at World Dendro in Bhutan and which we are are also collaborators. We are grateful to Dr . Shah for introducing us to climate change research in the Himalaya AND for his help to our former students of the Wooster Tree Ring Lab.

Jeff Gunderson,  who recently completed his masters thesis at The Ohio State University in Geography used tree-rings from the Peruvian Andes to reconstruct climate. Jeff collaborated with Dr. Shah who shared his computer code and guidance in calibrating his Peruvian tree-ring records.

Jeff Gunderson,  who recently completed his masters thesis at The Ohio State University in Geography used tree-rings from the Peruvian Andes to  to tell us about past temperature changes in another region of the world that depends, in large part, on the melting glaciers for water.  Jeff collaborated with Dr. Shah who shared his computer code and guidance in calibrating his tree-ring records.

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WTRL is Involved in a New Study on Cosmic Events

The Wooster Tree Ring Lab is part of the international tree-ring community, that investigated the global extent and seasonal timing of the rapid increase in atmospheric 14C concentrations from the two largest cosmogenic events in 774 and 993 CE. The initiative named “COSMIC” is lead by Ulf Büntgen (Cambridge University), Lukas Wacker, and J. Diego Galván (Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL) and measured these two cosmogenic events in 44 of the world’s longest tree-ring chronologies. These events are now key marker years and a powerful dating tool. The study was published in Nature Communication and can be found here.

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