Developing a Tree-Ring Chronology for Reconstructing Little Ice Ace Climate, Lower Colorado Plateau, UT

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Student Presentation

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Faculty Sponsor

David Wilkins


The Coral Pink Sand Dunes in southern Utah provide a harsh environment for plant life because of the mobility of the soil and lack of retained soil moisture. A stand of ponderosa pines within the active dune field would need unique conditions to allow for the establishment of seedlings. There would need to be extensive amounts of precipitation to keep the soil moist and reduce the aeolian sediment transport so that seedlings can establish a root system and survive to maturity. Clustering of tree recruitment into distinct periods shows when the dune field may have been in a period of inactivity, inferring climatic conditions needed for seedling development and survival. Core samples are collected, mounted and cross-dated using standard dendrochronological methods to complete a standardized tree-ring chronology. Initial visual dating of the cores suggests that many trees are upwards of 400 years old, spanning the Little Ice Age. Soil moisture availability is the limiting factor of annual growth and the ring widths are correlated to precipitation data collected from a nearby climate reporting station in Kanab, UT. This study will be a basis for understanding past climate conditions and dune field activity.

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