Tree-ring analysis of ancient baldcypress trees and subfossil wood

David W. Stahle, Dorian J. Burnette, Jose Villanueva, Julian Cerano, Falko K. Fye, R. Daniel Griffin, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Daniel K. Stahle, Jesse R. Edmondson, Kathryn P. Wolff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Ancient baldcypress trees found in wetland and riverine environments have been used to develop a network of exactly dated annual ring-width chronologies extending from the southeastern United States, across Mexico, and into western Guatemala. These chronologies are sensitive to growing season precipitation in spite of frequently flooded site conditions, and have been used to reconstruct moisture levels the southeastern United States and Mexico for over 1000 years. The El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major influence on the climate reconstructions derived from these baldcypress chronologies, especially in Mexico where some of the most extreme reconstructed droughts occurred during El Nino events. In the Southeast, the ENSO influence on climate and tree growth changes sign from spring to summer, and this change in dynamical forcing is recorded by sub-seasonal chronologies of earlywood and latewood width. Most existing baldcypress chronologies have been extended with tree-ring data from " subfossil" wood recovered from surface and submerged deposits. Well-preserved subfossil logs have also been recovered in quantity from buried deposits of great age, and may permit development of long continuously dated Holocene chronologies and discontinuous " floating" Pleistocene chronologies. The extensive subfossil baldcypress swamp discovered 6m below the streets of Washington D.C. was overrun by a transgression of the Potomac estuary, possibly during the previous super interglacial (marine OIS 5e), and provides direct evidence for one potential impact of unmitigated anthropogenic warming and sea level rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Feb 21 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank E.R. Cook for advice and assistance with the Kalman Filter; Rodolfo Acuna, Matt Therrell, Yovany Diaz, Oscar Chavez, Steve Lane, Ricky Cox, and Larry Benson for field assistance, and Keith Newton for photography. Funded by the National Science Foundation Paleoclimatology Program ( ATM-0400713 , and ATM-0753399 ), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , CCDD ( NA08OAR4310727 ), and the Graduate School of the University of Arkansas , Fayetteville.


  • Baldcypress
  • Dendrochronology
  • Earlywood
  • ENSO
  • Latewood
  • Subfossil wood
  • Taxodium distichum
  • Taxodium mucronatum


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