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Archiving tree-ring specimens and data for the future

Date: August 05, 2016

Tree-ring specimens are multi-century records of environmental conditions at specific locations and provide invaluable data for forest research


Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).

Background

The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. These wood samples were collected during the past 20 years to reconstruct historical fire regimes in western North America.

The USDA Forest Service and other funding agencies made a substantial investment in collecting and analyzing these specimens, and the value of the wood itself is incalculable. These specimens are unique multi‑century records of environmental conditions at specific locations, but in many cases, the specimens themselves cannot be replaced because old trees are disappearing from the landscape due to ongoing environmental and social changes.

Relevance & Importance

Samples are stored in a climate-controlled facility for future study (photo by Roger Pilkington).
Samples are stored in a climate-controlled facility for future study (photo by Roger Pilkington).
Over the next several years, this tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.

  • The archive of tree-ring specimens can be used to confirm the results of previously reconstructed fire histories, and they can be re-analyzed with new instruments or techniques to provide relevant data and insights for a variety of research fields and educational purposes.

  • Fire histories reconstructed from these tree-ring specimens are publicly archived and have been used in studies about the interactions of fire and western spruce budworm, as well as fire and forest structure. These data and metadata are important, as is the source material itself - the tree-ring specimens.

Featured Publications

Hood, Sharon M. ; Sala, Anna ; Heyerdahl, Emily K. ; Boutin, Marion , 2015
Merschel, Andrew G. ; Spies, Thomas A. ; Heyerdahl, Emily K. , 2014
Flower, Aquila ; Gavin, Daniel G. ; Heyerdahl, Emily K. ; Parsons, Russell A. ; Cohn, Gregory M. , 2014


Principal Investigators: