Suitability of chestnut earlywood vessel chronologies for ecological studies


Author for correspondence: Patrick Fonti Tel: +41 91 8215233 Fax: +41 91 8215239 Email:


  • • Wood anatomical features measured in dated tree rings have often proven to be of ecological value. However, little is known about the suitability and power of such measurements studied in a year-to-year basis as is done in dendrochronology.
  • • The present work is based on a comparative analysis of 60 dated time-series of earlywood features of chestnut (Castanea sativa) grown in the climatic context of the Southern part of the Swiss Alps.
  • • It has been shown that the earlywood vessel area is a suitable ecological indicator. This variable, although not very sensitive, contains environmental information that is different from that stored in all other ring-width and earlywood features we considered. The vessel size is mainly related to the temperature during two physiologically crucial periods for vessel growth: the end of the previous vegetation period (during reserve storage) and the onset of cambial activity (during cell division and vessel differentiation).
  • • Our work shows that the mean vessel size of the ring-porous chestnut contains ecophysiological information that can be used for research in dendrochronology.