Reconstructing Holocene climate from tree rings: The potential for a long chronology from the Scottish Highlands

R. Wilson, N. J. Loader, M. Rydval, H. Patton, A. Frith, C. M. Mills, A. Crone, C. Edwards, L. Larsson, B. E. Gunnarson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Despite promising research in the 1980s showing the potential of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) for the reconstruction of past summer temperatures in the Scottish Highlands, little dendroclimatic work has been attempted in this region since. This reflects, in part, the limited number of sparsely distributed remnant natural/ semi-natural pine woodlands in the Scottish Highlands and the lack of old growth forest therein. On average, most of the pine trees dated in this region are around 225 years in age. Here, we present the first results of an ongoing interdisciplinary initiative to develop a long Scottish chronology through the acquisition of modern, historical and subfossil pine material from the native pinewoods, historic structures and lakes of the Scottish Highlands. Radiocarbon dating of 25 subfossil pine timbers recovered from lake sediments identified the presence of preserved material covering the last 8000 years with initial clusters focused on the last two millennia and early-mid Holocene. Although developing a well-replicated 8000 year pine chronology will take many years, this preliminary study indicates that a millennial length pine chronology from the northwest Cairngorm region is a feasible and realistic objective in the near future. The importance of such a record in this climatically important sector of northwest Europe cannot be underestimated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages9
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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