Geophysical Research Letters

Tropical dendrochemistry: A novel approach to estimate age and growth from ringless trees

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Abstract

[1] Although tropical forests play an active role in the global carbon cycle and climate, their growth history remains poorly characterized compared to other ecosystems on the planet. Trees are prime candidates for the extraction of paleoclimate archives as they can be probed sub-annually, are widely distributed and can live for over 1400 years [Chambers et al., 1998]. However, dendrochronological techniques have found limited applications in the tropics because trees often lack visible growth rings (Whitmore, 1990). Alternative methods exist (dendrometry (DaSilva et al., 2002), radio- and stable isotopes (Evans and Schrag, 2004; Poussart et al., 2004; Poussart and Schrag, 2005), but the derived records are either of short-duration, lack seasonal resolution or are prohibitively labor intensive to produce. Here, we show the first X-ray microprobe synchrotron record of calcium (Ca) from a ringless Miliusa velutina tree from Thailand and use it to estimate the tree's age and growth history. The Ca age model agrees within ≤2 years of bomb-radiocarbon age estimates and confirms that the cycles are seasonal. The amplitude of the Ca annual cycle is correlated significantly with growth and annual Ca maxima correlate with the amount of dry season rainfall. Synchrotron measurements are fast and producing sufficient numbers of replicated multi-century tropical dendrochemical climate records now seems analytically feasible.

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