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An organismal view of dendrochronology

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Year Published



Dendrochronologia. 26: 185-193.


An organism is the most basic unit of independent life. The tree-ring record is defined by organismal processes. Dendrochronology contributes to investigations far removed from organismal biology, e.g., archeology, climatology, disturbance ecology, etc. The increasing integration of dendrochronology into a diverse research community suggests an opportunity for a brief review of the organismal basis of tree rings. Trees are dynamic, competitive, and opportunistic organisms with diverse strategies for survival. As with all green plants, trees capture the energy in sunlight to make and break chemical bonds with the elements essential for life. These essential elements are taken from the atmosphere, water, and soil. The long tree-ring series of special interest to dendrochronology result from long-lived trees containing relatively little decayed wood. Both of those features result from organismal biology. While the tree-ring record tells us many things about local, regional, and even global environmental history, tree rings are first a record of tree survival.


tree biology; tree rings; compartmentalization; organismal biology


Smith, Kevin T. 2008. An organismal view of dendrochronology. Dendrochronologia. 26: 185-193.

Last updated on: December 9, 2008