Sampling density and date along with species selection influence spatial representation of tree-ring reconstructions

Maxwell, Justin T.; Harley, Grant L.; Matheus, Trevis J.; Strange, Brandon M.; Van Aken, Kayla; Au, Tsun Fung; Bregy, Joshua C.

Our understanding of the natural variability of hydroclimate before the instrumental period (ca. 1900 CE in the United States) is largely dependent on tree-ring-based reconstructions. Large-scale soil moisture reconstructions from a network of tree-ring chronologies have greatly improved our understanding of the spatial and temporal variability in hydroclimate conditions, particularly extremes of both drought and pluvial (wet) events. However, certain regions within these large-scale network reconstructions in the US are modeled by few tree-ring chronologies. Further, many of the chronologies currently publicly available on the International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB) were collected in the 1980s and 1990s, and thus our understanding of the sensitivity of radial growth to soil moisture in the US is based on a period that experienced multiple extremely severe droughts and neglects the impacts of recent, rapid global change. In this study, we expanded the tree-ring network of the Ohio River valley in the US, a region with sparse coverage. We used a total of 72 chronologies across 15 species to examine how increasing the density of the tree-ring network influences the representation of reconstructing the Palmer Meteorological Drought Index (PMDI). Further, we tested how the sampling date and therefore the calibration period influenced the reconstruction models by creating reconstructions that ended in the year 1980 and compared them to reconstructions ending in 2010 from the same chronologies. We found that increasing the density of the tree-ring network resulted in reconstructed values that better matched the spatial variability of instrumentally recorded droughts and, to a lesser extent, pluvials. By extending the calibration period to 2010 compared to 1980, the sensitivity of tree rings to PMDI decreased in the southern portion of our region where severe drought conditions have been absent over recent decades. We emphasize the need of building a high-density tree-ring network to better represent the spatial variability of past droughts and pluvials. Further, chronologies on the ITRDB need updating regularly to better understand how the sensitivity of tree rings to climate may vary through time.

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Maxwell, Justin T. / Harley, Grant L. / Matheus, Trevis J. / et al: Sampling density and date along with species selection influence spatial representation of tree-ring reconstructions. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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