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Climate–growth relationships of tropical tree species in West Africa and their potential for climate reconstruction

Authors


Dr. Jochen Schöngart, Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology, Working Group Tropical Ecology, PO Box 165, August-Thienemann-Str. 2, 24302 Plön, Germany. tel. +0049 4522 763-235, fax +0049 4522 763-281, e-mail: jschoen@gwdg.de

Abstract

Most tropical regions are facing historical difficulties of generating biologically reconstructed long-term climate records. Dendrochronology (tree-ring studies) is a powerful tool to develop high-resolution and exactly dated proxies for climate reconstruction. Owing to the seasonal variation in rainfall we expected the formation of annual tree rings in the wood of tropical West African tree species. In the central-western part of Benin (upper Ouémé catchment, UOC) and in northeastern Ivory Coast (Comoé National Park, CNP) we investigated the relationship between climate (precipitation, sea surface temperature (SST)) and tree rings and show their potential for climate reconstruction. Wood samples of almost 200 trees belonging to six species in the UOC and CNP served to develop climate-sensitive ring-width chronologies using standard dendrochronological techniques. The relationship between local precipitation, monthly SST anomalies in the Gulf of Guinea, El Niño- Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and ring-width indices was performed by simple regression analyses, two sample tests and cross-spectral analysis. A low-pass filter was used to highlight the decadal variability in rainfall of the UOC site. All tree species showed significant relationships with annual precipitation proving the existence of annual tree rings. ENSO signals could not be detected in the ring-width patterns. For legume tree species at the UOC site significant relationships could be found between SST anomalies in the Gulf of Guinea indicating correlations at periods of 5.1–4.1 and 2.3 years. Our findings accurately show the relationship between tree growth, local precipitation and SST anomalies in the Gulf of Guinea possibly associated with worldwide SST patterns. A master chronology enabled the reconstruction of the annual precipitation in the UOC to the year 1840. Time series analysis suggest increasing arid conditions during the last 160 years which may have large impacts on the hydrological cycles and consequently on the ecosystem dynamics and the development of socio-economic cultures and sectors in the Guinea-Congolian/Sudanian region.

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