Tree growth is measured to understand tree health, fluxes in carbon sequestration, and other forest ecosystem functions. It is one of the most essential and widely collected woody plant traits. Yet, the traditional method to measure tree growth is awkward and time consuming. Scientists have developed a new, resourceful way to take repeated tree growth measurements safely and accurately.
Dendrometer bands are metal straps that wrap around a tree trunk to measure its growth. Bands are fashioned by bending banding material into a "collar" and passing the metal strap through the collar. The collar allows the strap to expand and shrink to measure trunk circumference and changes in trunk diameter over time. Construction of traditional bands is tricky. They have sharp edges, and the manipulation of the material requires a skilled worker.
Dr. Beth Middleton of the U.S. Geological Survey National Wetlands Research Center and Evelyn Anemaet of Five Rivers Services, Inc., discovered a way to simplify the construction of dendrometer bands. It is accurate and inexpensive, and is easier, safer, and faster to install than the traditional method.
Using the new method, prefabricated cable-tie heads are slightly modified and used as collars on the dendrometer bands. This makes more uniform bands and cuts down on assembly time. The cable ties are smooth edged, and thus less dangerous to manipulate and install on trees. Detailed instructions for the new method are published in the September issue of Applications in Plant Sciences (available for free viewing at http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.3732/apps.1300044).
Cable-tie heads are normally marketed for military and industrial applications to bundle wires and prevent corrosion. It is no surprise that these materials hold up well in outdoor field conditions with extreme weather. In fact, unsuspecting materials
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American Journal of Botany