, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1225–1238 | Cite as

A tree-ring based comparison of Terminalia superba climate–growth relationships in West and Central Africa

  • Maaike De Ridder
  • Valerie Trouet
  • Jan Van den Bulcke
  • Wannes Hubau
  • Joris Van Acker
  • Hans Beeckman
Original Paper


Tropical lowland forests are characterized by humid climate conditions with interannual variations in amount of precipitation, length of dry season, and relative humidity. The African tree species, Terminalia superba Engl. & Diels has a large distribution area and potentially incorporates these variations in its tree rings. Tree ring analysis was performed on 60 plantation trees (increment cores) and 41 natural trees (stem disks) from Ivory Coast and the Congolese Mayombe Forest. Natural forests and old plantations (50–55 years) showed similar growth patterns. Regional chronologies were developed for the two sample regions and showed a long-distance relationship for the period 1959–2008. Growth in the Mayombe was associated with early rainy season precipitation, but no relation was found between tree growth and precipitation in Ivory Coast. Congolese trees possibly show a higher climate-sensitivity than Ivorian trees, because precipitation in the Mayombe is more limiting, and Congolese T. superba trees are found closer to the margins of their distribution. Likewise, tree growth in the Mayombe was also influenced by the SSTs of the Gulf of Guinea and the South Atlantic Ocean during the early rainy season. However, tree growth was influenced by ENSO in both regions. In the Mayombe, La Niña years were associated with stronger tree growth whereas in Ivory Coast, El Niño years corresponded with stronger tree growth. The presented relation between ENSO, precipitation and tree growth is original for equatorial African forests, suggesting an influence of global climate variability on tree growth.


Africa Dendroclimatology ENSO Sea surface temperature Tree rings Tropical forest 



This research project is funded by a PhD grant (M. De Ridder) of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR). The fieldwork in Ivory Coast was supported by a grant from the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation and the Congolese fieldwork was possible with the help of a grant from VLIR. We are indebted to the Special Research Fund of Ghent University for financing the PhD project of W. Hubau. We would also like to thank the teams of WWF DRC, WWF Belgium, Soforma, the ERAIFT (École Régionale post-universitaire d’Aménagement et de gestion Intégrés des Forêts et Territoires tropicaux), Thanry and Bomaco for their financial support and their guidance throughout the fieldwork. Special thanks goes out to Guy Bayens for all possible help on organizing the Ivory Coast fieldwork and to Laurent Nsenga, Geert Lejeune, Bruno Pérodeau and Prof. Shango Mutambwe, whose efforts were indispensable for the success of the field campaigns in the DRC. Also a warm thank you to the local crew who guided us through the forests of West and Central Africa.


  1. Baillie MGL, Pilcher JR (1973) A simple program for tree-ring research. Tree Ring Bull 33:7–14Google Scholar
  2. Balas N, Nicholson SE, Klotter D (2007) The relationship of rainfall variability in West Central Africa to sea-surface temperature fluctuations. Int J Climatol 27:1335–1349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boninsegna JA, Argollo J, Aravena JC, Barichivich J, Christie D, Ferrero ME, Lara A, Le Quesne C, Luckman BH, Masiokas M, Morales M, Oliveira JM, Roig F, Srur A, Villalba R (2009) Dendroclimatological reconstructions in South America: a review. Paleogeogr Paleoclimatol Paleoecol 281:210–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bräuning A, Volland-Voigt F, Burchardt I, Ganzhi O, Nauss T, Peters T (2009) Climatic control of radial growth of Cedrela montana in a humid mountain rainforest in southern Ecuador. Erdkunde 63:337–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brienen RJW, Zuidema PA (2005) Relating tree growth to rainfall in Bolivian rain forests: a test for six species using tree ring analysis. Oecologia 146:1–12PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Camberlin P, Janicot S, Poccard I (2001) Seasonality and atmospheric dynamics of the teleconnection between African rainfall and tropical sea-surface temperature: Atlantic vs ENSO. Int J Climatol 21:973–1005CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (1990) Methods of dendrochronology. Applications in the environmental sciences. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Couralet C (2010) Community dynamics, phenology and growth of tropical trees in the rain forest Reserve of Luki, Democratic Republic of Congo. PhD thesis, Ghent UniversityGoogle Scholar
  9. Couralet C, Sass-Klaassen U, Sterck FJ, Bekele T, Zuidema PA (2005) Combining dendrochronology and matrix modelling in demographic studies: an evaluation for Juniperus procera in Ethiopia. For Ecol Manage 216:317–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Couralet C, Sterck FJ, Sass-Klaassen U, Van Acker J, Beeckman H (2010) Species-specific growth responses to climate variations in understory trees of a Central African rain forest. Biotropica 42:503–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. CTFT (1959) Monographie du limba (Terminalia superba Engler et Diels). CTFT, ParisGoogle Scholar
  12. CTFT (1983) Bois tropicaux (5ième edition). CTFT, Nogent-sur-MarneGoogle Scholar
  13. De Ridder M, Hubau W, Van den Bulcke J, Van Acker J, Beeckman H (2010) The potential of plantations of Terminalia superba Engl. & Diels for wood and biomass production (Mayombe Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo). Ann For Sci 67:501. doi: 10.1051/forest/2010003 Google Scholar
  14. Détienne P, Mariaux A (1970) La périodicité de formation des cernes dans le bois d’okoumé. Bois For Trop 131:37–50Google Scholar
  15. Détienne P, Mariaux A (1975) Nature et periodicité des cernes dans le bois de Niangon. Bois For Trop 159:29–37Google Scholar
  16. Détienne P, Mariaux A (1976) Nature et périodicité des cernes dans le bois de samba. Bois For Trop 169:29–35Google Scholar
  17. Détienne P, Mariaux A (1977) Nature et périodicité des cernes dans les bois rouges de méliacées africaines. Bois For Trop 175:52–61Google Scholar
  18. Devall MS, Parresol BR, Wright JS (1995) Dendroecological analysis of Cordia alliodora, Pseudobombax septenatum and Annona spraguei in Central Panama. IAWA J 16:411–424Google Scholar
  19. Douglass AE (1920) Evidence of climatic effects in the annual rings of trees. Ecology 1:24–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Douglass AE (1941) Crossdating in dendrochronology. J For 39:825–831Google Scholar
  21. Dünisch O, Montoia VR, Bauch J (2003) Dendroecological investigations on Swietenia macrophylla King and Cedrela odorata L. (Meliaceae) in the central Amazon. Trees 17:244–250Google Scholar
  22. Eckstein D, Bauch J (1969) Beitrag zur Rationalisierung eines dendrochronologischen Verfahrens und zur Analyse seiner Aussagesicherheit. Forstwiss Centralb 88:230–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eshete G, Stahl G (1999) Tree rings as indicators of growth periodicity of acacias in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia. For Ecol Manag 116:107–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. FAO (1986) Atlas of African agriculture. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  25. FAO (2008) Digital soil map of the world. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  26. Fichtler E, Trouet V, Beeckman H, Coppin P, Worbes M (2004) Climatic signals in tree rings of Burkea africana and Pterocarpus angolensis from semiarid forests in Namibia. Trees 18:442–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Friedrich M, Remmele S, Kromer B, Hofmann J, Spurk M, Kaiser KF, Orcel C, Küppers M (2004) The 12,460-year Hohenheim oak and pine tree-ring chronology from Central Europe—a unique annual record for radiocarbon calibration and paleoenvironment reconstructions. Radiocarbon 46:1111–1122Google Scholar
  28. Fritts HC (1976) Tree rings and climate. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Fritts HC, Swetnam TW (1989) Dendroecology: a tool for evaluating variations in past and present forest environments. Adv Ecol Res 19:111–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gebrekistos A, Mitlöhner R, Teketay D, Worbes M (2008) Climate–growth relationships of the dominant tree species from semi-arid savanna woodland in Ethiopia. Trees 22:631–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gourlay ID (1995) The definition of seasonal growth zones in some African Acacia species—a review. IAWA J 16:353–359Google Scholar
  32. Groulez J, Wood PJ (1985) A monograph on Terminalia superba. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical & Commonwealth Forestry Institute, Nogent-sur-MarneGoogle Scholar
  33. Haneca K, Boeren I, Van Acker J, Beeckman H (2005) Dendrochronology in suboptimal conditions: tree rings from medieval oak from Flanders (Belgium) as dating tools and archives of past forest management. Veg Hist Archaeobot 15:137–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Haneca K, Cufar K, Beeckman H (2009) Oaks, tree-rings and wooden cultural heritage: a review of the main characteristics and applications of oak dendrochronology in Europe. J Archaeol Sci 36:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hawthorne WD (1995) Ecological profiles of Ghanaian forest trees. Tropical forestry papers 29, University of OxfordGoogle Scholar
  36. Humblet P (1946) Aménagement des forêts climatiques tropicales au Mayumbe. Bull Agric Congo Belge 37:15–87Google Scholar
  37. Hummel FC (1946) The formation of growth rings in Entandrophragma macrophyllum A. Chev. and Khaya grandifolia C. DC. Int For Rev 25:103–107Google Scholar
  38. Joly M, Voldoire A, Douville H, Terray P, Royer J-F (2007) African monsoon teleconnections with tropical SSTs: validation and evolution in a set of IPCC4 simulations. Clim Dyn 29:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kennedy JJ, Rayner NA, Smith RO, Saunby M, Parker DE (2011a) Reassessing biases and other uncertainties in sea-surface temperature observations since 1850 part 1: measurement and sampling errors. J Geophys Res 116:D14103. doi: 10.1029/2010JD01521 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kennedy JJ, Rayner NA, Smith RO, Saunby M, Parker DE (2011b) Reassessing biases and other uncertainties in sea-surface temperature observations since 1850 part 2: biases and homogenisation. J Geophys Res 116:D14104. doi: 10.1029/2010JD015220 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Köppen WP, Geiger R (1930) Handbuch der Klimatologie. Verlag von Gebrüder Borntraeger, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  42. Mariaux A (1969) La périodicité des cernes d’accroissement dans le bois de Terminalia superba. Bois For Trop 128:39–54Google Scholar
  43. McKnight TL, Hess D (2000) Climate zones and types: the Köppen system. Physical geography: a landscape appreciation. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  44. Mitchell TD, Jones PD (2005) An improved method of constructing a database of monthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids. Int J Climatol 25:693–712CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nicholson SE, Entekhabi D (1987) Rainfall variability in equatorial and southern Africa: relationships with sea surface temperatures along the southwestern coast of Africa. J Clim Appl Meteorol 26:561–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Paeth H, Friederichs P (2004) Seasonality and time scales in the relationship between global SST and African rainfall. Clim Dyn 23:815–837CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pumijumnong N, Eckstein D, Sass U (1995) Tree-ring research on Tectona grandis in northern Thailand. IAWA J 16:385–392Google Scholar
  48. Rinn F (2003) TSAP-WinTM user reference. Rinntech, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  49. Sass-Klaassen U, Couralet C, Sahle Y, Sterck FJ (2008) Juniper from Ethiopia contains a large-scale precipitation signal. Int J Plant Sci 169:1057–1065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schöngart J, Junk WJ, Piedade MTF, Ayres JM, Hütterman A, Worbes M (2004) Teleconnection between tree growth in the Amazonian floodplains and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation effect. Glob Change Biol 10:683–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schöngart J, Orthmann B, Hennenberg KJ, Porembski S, Worbes M (2006) Climate–growth relationships of tropical tree species in West Africa and their potential for climate reconstruction. Glob Change Biol 12:1139–1150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stahle DW (1999) Useful strategies for the development of tropical tree-ring chronologies. IAWA J 20:249–253Google Scholar
  53. Stahle DW, Mushove PT, Cleaveland MK, Roig F, Haynes GA (1999) Management implications of annual growth rings in Pterocarpus angolensis from Zimbabwe. For Ecol Manag 124:217–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swaine MD, Whitmore TC (1988) On the definition of ecological species groups in tropical rain forests. Vegetatio 75:81–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tarhule A, Hughes MK (2002) Tree-ring research in semi-arid West Africa: need and potential. Tree Ring Res 58:31–46Google Scholar
  56. Therrell MD, Stahle DW, Ries LP, Shugart HH (2006) Tree-ring reconstructed rainfall variability in Zimbabwe. Clim Dyn 26:677–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Trenberth KE (1997) The definition of El Niño. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 78:2771–2777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Trenberth KE, Stepaniak DP (2001) Indices of El Niño evolution. J Clim 14:1697–1701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Trouet V, Haneca K, Coppin P, Beeckman H (2001) Tree ring analysis of Brachystegia spiciformis and Isoberlinia tomentosa: evaluation of the ENSO-signal in the miombo-woodland of eastern Africa. IAWA J 22:385–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Trouet V, Coppin P, Beeckman H (2006) Annual growth ring patterns in Brachystegia spiciformis reveal influence of precipitation on tree growth. Biotropica 38:375–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Trouet V, Esper J, Beeckman H (2010) Climate/growth relationships of Brachystegia spiciformis from the miombo woodland in south central Africa. Dendrochronologia 28:161–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. van Oldenborgh GJ, Burgers G (2005) Searching for decadal variations in ENSO precipitation teleconnections. Geophys Res Lett 32:L15701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. White F (1983) The vegetation of Africa. UNESCO, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  64. Wigley TML, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1984) On the average value of correlated time series, with application in dendroclimatology and hydrometeorology. J Clim Appl Meteorol 23:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wils THG, Sass-Klaassen U, Eshetu Z, Braüning A, Gebrekirstos A, Couralet C, Robertson I, Touchan R, Koprowski M, Conway D, Briffa K, Beeckman H (2011) Dendrochronology in the dry tropics: the Ethiopian case. Trees 25:345–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Worbes M (1995) How to measure growth dynamics in tropical trees. A review. IAWA J 16:337–351Google Scholar
  67. Worbes M (1999) Annual growth rings, rainfall-dependent growth and long-term growth patterns of tropical trees from the Caparo Forest Reserve in Venezuela. J Ecol 87:391–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Worbes M (2002) One hundred years of tree-ring research in the tropics - A brief history and an outlook on future challenges. Dendrochronologia 20:217–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Worbes M, Staschel R, Roloff A, Junk WJ (2003) Tree ring analysis reveals age structure, dynamics and wood production of a natural forest stand in Cameroon. For Ecol Manage 173:105–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Trouet V, Van Oldenborgh GJ (2013) KNMI Climate Explorer: a web-based research tool for high-resolution paleoclimatology. Tree Ring Res 69:3–13Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maaike De Ridder
    • 1
    • 2
  • Valerie Trouet
    • 3
  • Jan Van den Bulcke
    • 1
  • Wannes Hubau
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joris Van Acker
    • 1
  • Hans Beeckman
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Wood Technology, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory for Wood Biology and XylariumRoyal Museum for Central AfricaTervurenBelgium
  3. 3.Laboratory of Tree Ring ResearchUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations