, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 513–524

Discrete versus continuous analysis of anatomical and δ13C variability in tree rings with intra-annual density fluctuations

  • Veronica De Micco
  • Giovanna Battipaglia
  • Willi A. Brand
  • Petra Linke
  • Matthias Saurer
  • Giovanna Aronne
  • Paolo Cherubini
Original Paper


Intra-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) are anomalies of tree rings where wood density is abruptly altered after sudden changes in environmental conditions. Their characterisation can provide information about the relationship between environmental factors and eco-physiological processes during tree growth. This paper reports about the variability of anatomical traits and stable carbon isotopic composition along tree rings as resulting from the application of two different methodological approaches: (a) the separation of each ring into different regions (earlywood, latewood and IADF) and the comparison of anatomical and isotopic parameters measured in those specific sectors and (b) the analysis of such features in continuum along ring width. Moreover, different parameters of vessels (i.e. ecd—equivalent circle diameter, elongation, sphericity and convexity of vessel lumen) were considered to identify those more appropriate for the representation of intra-annual anatomical variations. The analysis was conducted on Arbutus unedo L. growing on the Elba Island (Italy); tree rings of this species form IADFs with features clearly responsive to the environmental conditions experienced during plant growth. Results showed that the first approach, although more suitable to obtain data for subsequent statistical comparisons and for the calculation of correlations with environmental parameters, suffers from elements of subjectivity due to the size and position of the selected tree-ring regions. The in continuum method allows a clearer identification of the variation of tree-ring properties along ring width. Regarding anatomical parameters, shape indexes were not suitable indicators of intra-annual variability. The overall analysis suggested that using both methodologies in synergy helps to gain complete information and avoid misleading interpretations of IADFs in tree rings.


Arbutus unedo L. Carbon isotopes Elba island Intra-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) Mediterranean ecosystems Quantitative wood anatomy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Veronica De Micco
    • 1
  • Giovanna Battipaglia
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Willi A. Brand
    • 5
  • Petra Linke
    • 5
  • Matthias Saurer
    • 6
  • Giovanna Aronne
    • 1
  • Paolo Cherubini
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Arboriculture, Botany and Plant PathologyUniversity of Naples Federico IIPortici (Naples)Italy
  2. 2.Paleoenvironments and Chronoecology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (PALECO-EPHE), Institut de BotaniqueMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Centre for Bio-Archeology and Ecology (UMR5059), Institut de BotaniqueUniversity of Montpellier 2MontpellierFrance
  4. 4.WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape ResearchBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  5. 5.Max-Plank Institute for BiogeochemistryJenaGermany
  6. 6.Paul Scherrer InstituteVilligenSwitzerland

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