Comparing two methods for aging trees with suppressed, diffuse-porous rings (Betula pubescens ssp czerepanovii) Academic Article uri icon


  • The annual growth rings of diffuse porous species such as mountain birch are often difficult to distinguish when samples are collected from trees that grow at treeline or in other harsh environments. In this study we document the differences in seedling and sapling ring counts obtained from two methods of analysis: a traditional analysis based on reflected light and low-power microscopy and one based on transmitted light with higher power magnification that uses thin-sections of the samples. Rings are easier to resolve using the more labor-intensive transmitted light method. Small rings are often missed when using the reflected light method, resulting in an underestimation of tree age. The dates estimated by the standard method agreed with those determined using the thin-sectioning method in 9.6% of the cases. Most commonly, the standard method gave a younger age than did thin-sectioning (72.4% of the trees). In only 18.03% of the cases did the standard method result in a greater age than did thin-sectioning. The reflected light method produced age estimations that were on average 1.37 years younger than those determined using the transmitted light method. The difference between the two methods was positively correlated with age and negatively correlated with mean ring-width. Age-class histograms based on the two methods show little difference at coarser aggregation levels (decades and pentads), but annualized age-class histograms have less agreement between the two methods. Therefore, we suggest using the more labor-intensive thin-sectioning method when annualized age counts are necessary in suppressed seedlings and saplings, for example, comparing tree establishment with annual climate conditions at treeline. 2012 Elsevier GmbH.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Cairns, D. M., Lafon, C. W., Mouton, M. F., Stuteville, R. L., Young, A. B., & Moen, J.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Cairns, David M||Lafon, Charles W||Mouton, Michelle F||Stuteville, Rachel L||Young, Amanda B||Moen, Jon

publication date

  • January 2012