, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 461–474 | Cite as

Intra-annual dendroclimatic reconstruction for northern British Columbia, Canada, using wood properties

  • Lisa J. Wood
  • Dan J. Smith
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Tree Rings


Key message

Analyses of tree-ring wood properties combined with an understanding of tree physiology provided detailed intra-annual insights into historical and seasonal climate phenomena in sub-boreal forests of northern British Columbia.


This study investigated historical climate trends in northern British Columbia, Canada, through the use of tree-ring proxies, and established a means of reconstructing intra-annual climate patterns from wood density, fibre properties and tree-ring width data. Specific attention was given to investigating how dendroclimatological analyses of intra-ring wood and fibre properties could be interpreted to improve the strength of proxy climate records. Trees were sampled at six sites in northern British Columbia. Spruce trees were collected from the Smithers area, whilst Douglas-fir trees were sampled at the northern latitudinal extent of their range near Babine and Francois Lakes, and at a precipitation-limited site near Valemount. Wood cores were analysed by Windendro® software with an ITRAX scanning densitometer, and by the SilviScan system located at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization. A mean June temperature proxy record dating to 1805 and a July–August mean temperature proxy record for Smithers extending from 1791 to 2006 were constructed from spruce ring width and maximum density chronologies. Douglas-fir ring width, spruce minimum density, and Douglas-fir maximum cell-wall thickness chronologies were used to reconstruct a May–June precipitation record extending from 1820 to 2006, and a July–August total precipitation record for Fort St. James that extends from 1912 to 2006. The results of the study demonstrate that a combination of multivariate and single-variate analyses provide detailed insights into seasonal radial growth characteristics. Tree physiological responses to climate at different times throughout the growing season, and temperature and precipitation fluctuations over the historical record are discussed.


Dendroclimatology Fibre properties Temperature Precipitation Tree physiology 


Author contribution statement

Lisa J. Wood: responsible for data collection and analysis. Provided initial manuscript draft and involved in editing different versions. Dan J. Smith: supervised the research and provided support funding. Reviewed and edited different versions of the manuscript.


The authors thank Leslie Abel, Aquila Flower, Lynn Koehler, and Branden Rishel for their field assistance, and to Kyla Patterson for her data preparation and technical support. Financial support for this research was provided by Northern Scientific Training Program (NSTP) to Wood and Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awards to Wood and Smith, and a Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science (CFCAS) award to the Western Canadian Cryospheric Network (WC2N).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Bouriaud O, Leban JM, Bert D, Deleuze C (2005) Intra-annual variations in climate influence growth and wood density of Norway spruce. Tree Physiol 25:651–660CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Briffa KR, Jones PD, Schweingruber FH (1992) Tree-ring density reconstructions of summer temperature patterns across western North America since 1600. J Clim 5:735–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chavardes RD, Daniels LD, Waeber PO, Innes JL, Nitschke CR (2013) Unstable climate-growth relations for white spruce in southwest Yukon. Canada. Clim Change 116:593–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen F, Yuan Y, Wei W, Yu S, Li Y, Zhang R, Zhang T, Shang H (2010) Chronology development and climate response analysis of Schrenk spruce (Picea schrenkiana) tree-ring parameters in the Urumqi River Basin, China. Geochronometria 36:17–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chhin S, Hogg EH, Lieffers VJ, Huang S (2008) Potential effects of climate change on the growth of lodgepole pine across diameter size classes and ecological regions. For Ecol Manage 256:1692–1703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Collins M, Osborn TJ, Tett SFB, Briffa KR, Schweingruber FH (2002) A comparison of the variability of a climate model with paleo temperature estimates from a network of tree-ring densities. J Clim 15:1497–1515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Conkey LE (1986) Red spruce tree-ring widths and densities in eastern North America as indicators of past climate. Quatern Res 26:232–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cook ER, Holmes RL (1986) User’s manual for the program ARSTAN. Tree-ring chronologies of western North America: California, eastern Oregon, and Northern Great Basin with procedures used in the chronology development work including users manuals for computer programs COFECHA and ARSTAN. In: Holmes RL, Adams RK, Fritts HC (eds) Chronology Series VI. Laboratory of Tree-ring Research. The University of Arizona, Tucson, pp 50–65Google Scholar
  9. Cook ER, Kairiukstis LA (eds) (1990) Methods of dendrochronology: applications in the environmental sciences. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  10. D’Arrigo RD, Jacoby GC, Free RM (1992) Tree-ring width and maximum latewood density at the North American tree line: parameters of climatic change. Can J For Res 22:1290–1296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Arrigo RD, Wilson R, Liepert B, Cherunbini P (2008) On the ‘divergence problem’ in northern forests: a review of the tree-ring evidence and possible causes. Glob Planet Change 60:289–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davi NK, D’Arrigo RD, Jacoby JG, Buckley B, Kobayashi O (2002) Warm-season annual to decadal temperature variability for Hokkaido, Japan, inferred from maximum latewood density (AD 1557–1990) and ring width (AD 1532–1990). Clim Change 52:210–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davi NK, Jacoby GC, Wiles GC (2003) Boreal temperature variability inferred from maximum latewood density and ring width data, Wrangell Mountain region, Alaska. Quatern Res 60:252–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Donaldson L (2008) Microfibril angle: measurement, variation and relationships–a review. IAWA J 29(4):345–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drew DM, Allen K, Downes GM, Evans R, Battaglia M, Baker P (2012) Wood properties in a long-lived conifer reveal strong climate signals where ring-width series do not. Tree Physiol 33:37–47CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Evans R, Stringer S, Kibblewhite RP (2000) Variation of microfibril angle, density and fibre orientation in twenty-nine Eucalyptus nitens trees. Appita J 53:450–457Google Scholar
  17. Flower A, Smith DJ (2011) A dendroclimatic reconstruction of June-July mean temperature in the northern Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dendrochronologia 29:55–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fritts HC (1976) Tree rings and climate. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Fritts HC (1999) PRECON version 5.17B. A statistical model for analyzing the tree-ring response to variations in climate.
  20. Fritts HC, Blasting TJ, Hayden BP, Kutzbach JE (1971) Multivariate techniques for specifying tree-growth and climate relationships and for reconstructing anomalies in paleoclimate. J Appl Meteorol 10:845–864CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grabner M, Wimmer R, Gierlinger N, Evans R, Downes G (2005) Heartwood extractives in larch and effects on x-ray densitometry. Can J For Res 35:2781–2786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Green DS (2007) Controls of growth phenology vary in seedlings of three, co-occurring ecologically distinct northern conifers. Tree Physiol 27:1197–1205CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Haygreen JG, Bowyer JL (1996) Forest products and wood science, 3rd edn. Iowa State University Press, AmesGoogle Scholar
  24. Helama S, Bégin Y, Vartiainen M, Peltolae H, Kolström T, Meriläineng J (2012) Quantifications of dendrochronological information from contrasting microdensitometric measuring circumstances of experimental wood samples. Appl Radiat Isot 70:1014–1023CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hiller CH (1964) Estimating size of the fibril angle in latewood tracheids of slash pine. J Forest 62:249–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holmes RL (1983) Computer assisted quality control in tree-ring dating and measurement. Tree-Ring Bull 43:69–78Google Scholar
  27. Houghton J, Ding Y, Griggs D, Noguer M, van der Linden P, Dai X, Maskell K, Johnson C (eds) (2001) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Jacoby GC, D’Arrigo RD (1995) Tree-ring and density evidence of climatic and potential forest change in Alaska. Global Biogeochem Cycles 9:227–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jensen WB (2007) The origin of the Soxhlet extractor. Chem Educ Today 84:1913–1914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones PD, Schimleck LR, Peter GF, Daniels RF, Clark A III (2005) Non-destructive estimation of Pinus taeda L tracheid morphological characteristics for samples from a wide range of sites in Georgia. Wood Sci Technol 39:529–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kern Z, Patkó M, Kázmér M, Fekete J, Kele S, Pályi Z (2013) Multiple tree-ring proxies (earlywood width, latewood width and δ13C) from pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.), Hungary. Quat Int 293:257–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kozlowski TT (1979) Tree growth and environmental stresses. The University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  33. Larocque SJ, Smith DJ (2005) A dendroclimatological reconstruction of climate since AD 1700 in the Mt. Waddington area, British Columbia Coast Mountains, Canada. Dendrochronologia 22:93–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lo Y, Blanco JA, Seely B, Welham C, Kimmins JP (2010) Relationships between climate and tree radial growth in interior British Columbia, Canada. For Ecol Manage 259:932–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lundgren C (2004) Cell-wall thickness and tangential and radial cell diameter of fertilized and irrigated Norway spruce. Silva Fennica 38:95–106Google Scholar
  36. McLane SC, LeMay VM, Aitken SN (2011) Modeling lodgepole pine radial growth relative to climate and genetics using universal growth-trend response functions. Ecol Adapt 21:776–788Google Scholar
  37. Meidinger DV (ed.) (1998) The ecology of the sub-boreal spruce zone. BC Ministry of Forests.
  38. Meko DM, Baisan CH (2001) Pilot study of latewood width of conifers as an indicator of variability of summer rainfall in the North American monsoon region. Int J Climatol 21:697–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ministry of Environment (2011) BC Parks Jackman Flats Provincial Park Accessed 15 Mar 2012
  40. Novak K, de Luís M, Raventós J, Čufar K (2013) Climatic signals in tree-ring widths and wood structure of Pinus halepensis in contrasted environmental conditions. Trees 27(4):927–936CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Parker ML (1976) Improving tree-ring dating in northern Canada by x-ray densitometry. Syesis 9:163–172Google Scholar
  42. Pitman KJ, Smith DJ (2012) Tree-ring derived Little Ice Age temperature trends from the central British Columbia Coast Mountains, Canada. Quatern Res 78:417–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pitman KJ, Smith DJ (2013) A dendroclimatic analysis of mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) ring-width and maximum density parameters, southern British Columbia Coast Mountains, Canada. Dendrochronologia 31:165–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Polge H (1970) The use of x-ray densitometry methods in dendrochronology. Tree-Ring Bull 30:1–10Google Scholar
  45. Porter TJ, Pisaric MFJ (2011) Temperature-growth divergence in white spruce forests of northwestern North America began in the late-19th century. Glob Change Biol 17:3418–3430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rodriguez-Gonzalez PM, Stella JC, Campelo F, Ferreira MT, Albuquerque A (2010) Subsidy or stress? Tree structure and growth in wetland forests along a hydrological gradient in Southern Europe. For Ecol Manage 259:2015–2025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Savva Y, Koubaa A, Tremblay F, Bergeron Y (2010) Effects of radial growth, tree age, climate, and seed origin on wood density of diverse Jack pine populations. Trees 24:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schweingruber FH (1990) Radiodensitometry. In: Cook ER, Kairiukstis A (eds) Methods of Dendrochronology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 55–63Google Scholar
  49. Schweingruber FH (2007) Wood structure and environment. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, p 279Google Scholar
  50. Schweingruber FH, Fritts HC, Bräker OU, Drew LG, Schär E (1978) The x-ray technique as applied to dendroclimatology. Tree-Ring Bull 38:61–91Google Scholar
  51. Soja AJ, Tchebakova NM, French NHF, Flannigan MD, Shugart HH, Stocks BJ, Sukhinin AI, Parfenova EI, Chapin S III, Stackhouse PW Jr (2007) Climate-induced boreal forest change: predictions versus current observations. Glob Plantary Change 56:274–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spittlehouse D (2009) British Columbia Ministry of Forests Research Branch website. Accessed 12 August 2010
  53. Spittlehouse D (compiler) (2006) Spatial climate data and assessment of climate change impacts on forest ecosystems. ClimateBC Final report for project Y062149.
  54. Stokes MA, Smiley TL (1968) An introduction to tree-ring dating. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  55. Vahey DW, Zhu JY, Scott CT (2007) Wood density and anatomical properties in suppressed-growth trees: comparison of two methods. Wood Fibre Sci 39:462–471Google Scholar
  56. Watson E, Luckman BH (2001) Dendroclimatic reconstruction of precipitation for sites in the southern Canadian Rockies. Holocene 11:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Watson E, Luckman BH (2002) The dendroclimatic signal in Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine tree-ring chronologies from the southern Canadian Cordillera. Can J For Res 32:1858–1874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wigley TML, Briffa KR, Jones PD (1984) On the average value of correlated time series, with applications in dendroclimatology and hydrometeorology. J Appl Meteorol 23:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wimmer R, Grabner M (2000) A comparison of tree-ring features in Picea abies as correlated with climate. IAWA Journal 21:403–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wimmer R, Downes GM, Evans R (2002) Temporal variation of microfibril angle in Eucalyptus nitens grown in different irrigation regimes. Tree Physiol 22:449–457CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Wood L, Smith DJ (2013) Climate and glacier mass balance trends from 1780 to present in the Columbia Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Holocene 23:739–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Woodcock DW (1989) Climate sensitivity of wood-anatomical features in a ring-porous oak (Quercus macrocarpa). Can J For Res 19:639–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Woods A, Coates KD, Hamann A (2005) Is an unprecedented Dothistroma needle blight epidemic related to climate change? Bioscience 55:761–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Xu J, Lu J, Bao F, Evans R, Downes GM (2012a) Climate response of cell characteristics in tree rings of Picea crassifolia. Holzforschung 67:217–225Google Scholar
  65. Xu J, Lu J, Bao F, Evans R, Downes G, Huang R, Zhao Y (2012b) Cellulose microfibril angle variation in Picea crassifolia tree rings improves climate signals on the Tibetan plateau. Trees 26:1007–1016CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Youming X, Han L, Chunyun X (1998) Genetic and geographic variation in microfibril angle of loblolly pine in 31 provenances. In: Butterfield BG (ed) Microfibril angle in wood. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, pp 388–396Google Scholar
  67. Youngblut D, Luckman BH (2008) Maximum June–July temperatures in the southwest Yukon over the last 300 years reconstructed from tree rings. Dendrochonologia 25:153–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Victoria Tree-Ring Laboratory, Department of GeographyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations