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New technique for measuring tree growth cuts down on research time
Date:8/26/2013

often make essential environmental research equipment, with examples including steel nails used as plant tags and wedding veil material as insect netting.

Anemaet and Middleton were inspired to create an easier method by their field research on baldcypress tree swamps. Baldcypress swamps are an ecosystem that once spread across the southeastern and eastern United States. They are currently being restored in some areas of the Gulf Coastal Plain after years of degradation from agriculture, saltwater intrusion, and pests like the tent caterpillar. The swamps provide vital ecosystem functions like carbon storage and water purification. "We wanted to be able to look at how baldcypress trees respond to changes in their environment, such as differences in temperature, water, salinity, and day length," says Anemaet, "and this new method is very useful for these kinds of long-term studies."

The traditional method and new method of measuring tree growth were compared in ideal, non-field conditions and in the baldcypress swamps. In ideal conditions, installation time of the bands was two minutes faster. Installation time was up to 20 minutes faster in field conditions. These time savings accumulate when tens to hundreds of trees are tagged, which is common for environmental field studies that measure variation in tree growth among individuals of one tree species or multiple tree species. Saving time and easier band installation are also crucial when working in non-ideal field conditions. "Our work in baldcypress swamps is often carried out under flooded and/or muddy conditions, and we [the field team] did not want to get cuts on our hands (from handling the traditional banding material) that were very likely to get dirty and infected," comments Anemaet.

Middleton and Anemaet developed a general method that is widely applicable to long-term forest studies. "We are hoping that other researchers will be more likely to utilize dendrometer bands in their
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Contact: Beth Parada
bparada@botany.org
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert

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