Temporal instability in tree-growth/climate response in the Lower Bavarian Forest region: implications for dendroclimatic reconstruction

Rob Wilson, W Elling

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125 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the temporal stability of growth/climate relationships in ring-width chronologies of Norway spruce [ Picea abies (L.) Karst] and silver fir ( Abies alba Mill) in the Lower Bavarian Forest region in southern Germany. These chronologies were compiled, using both historic and living tree-ring data, with the main aim of developing a dendroclimatic reconstruction for the region covering the last 500 years. Moving window correlation analysis shows that prior to the twentieth century, both species co-vary in a similar way (1480-1899 mean r =0.66). There is no significant correlation between the species chronologies since ca. 1930, which partly reflects anomalous growth trends in the fir chronology since ca. 1960. Multiple regression analysis was utilised to assess the ability of both species chronologies to model March-August precipitation. The precipitation signal of the spruce data was found to be both stronger than the fir data (1872-1930 calibration: r(2)=0.45 vs 0.25) and more time stable. After ca. 1930, the fir chronology loses it ability to model March-August precipitation until there is no climate signal at all in the fir data in recent decades. The spruce data also express a later weakening in their climate signal in the mid 1970s. We present compelling evidence indicating that the anomalous trends observed in the fir data, since the mid 1960s, appear to be predominantly related to local SO2 emissions from power plants and refineries. It is also likely that this local anthropogenic forcing is the cause of the weakening of the climate signal in the spruce data since the mid 1970s. The conclusions from this study are: (1) The fir tree-ring data cannot be used for traditional dendroclimatic calibration, although prior to the twentieth century the decadal variability in the fir data is very similar to spruce and so these data could be used to extend potential reconstructions in the future; (2) The recent decline and recovery event in the fir data appears to be unique to the twentieth century and is not part of a natural episodic phenomenon; (3) Traditional dendroclimatic calibration of March-August precipitation will be made using solely the spruce ring-width data. However, due to SO2 forcing in recent decades, the calibration period will be shortened to the 1871-1978 period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalTrees-Structure and Function
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


  • dendroclimatology
  • Bavarian forest
  • Germany
  • response change
  • forest decline


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