iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


The effect of provenance of historical timber on tree-ring based temperature reconstructions in the Western Central Alps

Dana FC Riechelmann (1-2)   , Claudia Hartl (2), Jan Esper (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 13, Issue 5, Pages 351-359 (2020)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3412-013
Published: Aug 25, 2020 - Copyright © 2020 SISEF

Research Articles

Millennial-length tree-ring width chronologies are used to reconstruct temperature and place recent warming into historical context. The Simplon valley in the Western Central Alps is an ideal region for such a study as it provides historical timber back to medieval times which can be combined with temperature sensitive living larch trees. However, the exact provenance of the historical timber is unknown, but might origin from different elevations which potentially biases derived temperature reconstructions. To study the effect of elevation on tree growth and climate sensitivity, approximately 250 trees at three elevational levels (1500, 1700, and 2000 m a.s.l.) were sampled. Results indicate that the overall growth rate decreases with increasing elevation. Significant correlations between tree-ring width and summer temperature are recorded at tree sites ≥ 1700 m a.s.l. The comparison of the growth patterns between living trees and historical timber from Simplon Village (1476 m a.s.l.) reveals a most likely origin of the historical samples between 1700 and 2000 m a.s.l. When combining the data from the living trees at the different elevational levels with the historical timber, to produce three separate chronologies spanning the past 1200 years, substantial low frequency differences are recorded after RCS detrending the data. This finding demonstrates that the origin of samples in combined (living + historical) chronologies has a strong influence on long-term summer temperature reconstructions. It is thus important to analyse the growth characteristics of historical timber, and estimate their provenance in comparison to living trees, when producing millennial length chronologies.


Elevational Transect, European Larch, Climate Response, Summer Temperature, Dendrochronology

Authors’ address

Dana FC Riechelmann 0000-0002-3863-8216
Institute for Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 21, D-55128 Mainz (Germany)
Dana FC Riechelmann 0000-0002-3863-8216
Claudia Hartl 0000-0001-9492-4674
Jan Esper 0000-0003-3919-014X
Department of Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 21, D-55128 Mainz (Germany)

Corresponding author

Dana FC Riechelmann


Riechelmann DFC, Hartl C, Esper J (2020). The effect of provenance of historical timber on tree-ring based temperature reconstructions in the Western Central Alps. iForest 13: 351-359. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3412-013

Academic Editor

Giorgio Alberti

Paper history

Received: Mar 24, 2020
Accepted: Jun 29, 2020

First online: Aug 25, 2020
Publication Date: Oct 31, 2020
Publication Time: 1.90 months

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