, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 1007-1016
Date: 18 Jan 2012

Cellulose microfibril angle variation in Picea crassifolia tree rings improves climate signals on the Tibetan plateau

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Microfibril angle (MFA) is an important factor in determining the mechanical properties of individual cells and wood as a whole. While some studies have described the variation of MFA within trees, little work has been done on the extent to which MFA is influenced by climate, despite it being known to respond to climatic events. Year-to-year variation in MFA and ring width was measured at high resolution by SilviScan-3® on 30 dated Picea crassifolia trees growing in the northeastern Tibetan plateau. The climate signals registered in MFA and ring width were analyzed using dendroclimatological methods. The response function of MFA accounted for 67% of total variance, of which 60% was explained by climate elements. The response function of ring width explained 57% total variance, 37% of which was explained by climate variables. MFA significantly responded to July–August temperatures, and to precipitation in March, May and September. Over the period 1987–2009 temperatures generally increase and appeared to have a greater influence on MFA. A decrease in the strength of the relationship between MFA and ring width over the period 1987–2009 was also observed. MFA offers the potential to build robust climate proxies. The strong climate sensitivity of MFA to increasing temperature or the observed changes in the MFA–ring width relationship may contribute to resolving the “divergence problem” in temperature reconstructions. As far as we are aware, this study is the first to show a strong climate response in MFA and suggests that it might be a useful climate proxy.

Communicated by S. Leavitt.