Lab Spotlight

Archiving Tree-Ring Specimens and Data for the Future

FS RogerPilkington
The USDA Forest Service’s ~1@BODYURL[id=166DWlaptopcurl3]@ is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Tree-ring specimens are multi-century records of environmental conditions at specific locations and provide invaluable data for forest research. These wood samples were collected during the past 20 years to reconstruct historical fire regimes in western North America.

The Forest Service and other funding agencies made a substantial investment in collecting and analyzing these specimens, and the value of the wood itself is incalculable. These specimens are unique multi‑century records of environmental conditions at specific locations; but in many cases, the specimens themselves cannot be replaced because old trees are disappearing from the landscape due to ongoing environmental and social changes.

The archive of tree-ring specimens can be used to confirm the results of previously reconstructed fire histories, and they can be reanalyzed with new instruments or techniques to provide relevant data and insights for a variety of research fields and educational purposes. For example, recent analysis of the tree-ring specimens produced novel insights and documented historical tree defenses against bark beetles.

Fire histories reconstructed from these tree-ring specimens are also publicly archived, and have been used in studies about the interactions of fire and western spruce budworm, as well as fire and forest structure. These data and metadata are important, as is the source material—the tree-ring specimens.

Over the next several years, this tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Lab Spotlight