Skip to Main Content
Dendrochemical analyses of absolutely dated, overlapping sequences of tree rings allow identification of temporally conscribed, volcanically influenced periods of environmental change. Dendrochemistry, or the study of tree-ring elemental composition, is a promising new technique for reconstructing climate/environmental history at annual resolution. In particular, dendrochemistry may be useful for identifying periods of climatically and/or environmentally effective volcanic activity. Airborne pollution from major volcanic eruptions in the form of increased environmental acidity from sulfur dioxide can cause changes in availability and concentration of certain elements and can increase the availability of those elements in the soil, resulting in increased uptake by trees from the substrate or direct from the atmosphere. In particular, spikes, dips, or major changes in trace element concentration may be an indication of changes in soil or atmospheric chemistry (e.g., Padilla and Anderson 2002). Although there are other records of past volcanism (especially from ice-cores - e.g. Vinther et al. 2005), tree-ring based work (e.g. Salzer and Hughes 2007) offers several important advantages: first, tree-ring series are available with wide spatial coverage from most of the globe, and second, they are datable with annual and even subannual resolution on a fixed (absolute) calendar timescale (whereas even the best ice-core work has errors of several years or more beyond the last few hundred years).