Tree-ring analysis in natural hazards research – an overview
- Laboratory of Dendrogeomorphology, Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 4, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland
Abstract. The understanding of geomorphic processes and knowledge of past events are important tasks for the assessment of natural hazards. Tree rings have on varied occasions proved to be a reliable tool for the acquisition of data on past events. In this review paper, we provide an overview on the use of tree rings in natural hazards research, starting with a description of the different types of disturbances by geomorphic processes and the resulting growth reactions. Thereafter, a summary is presented on the different methods commonly used for the analysis and interpretation of reactions in affected trees. We illustrate selected results from dendrogeomorphological investigations of geomorphic processes with an emphasis on fluvial (e.g., flooding, debris flows) and mass-movement processes (e.g., landslides, snow avalanche), where lots of data have been generated over the past few decades. We also present results from rockfall and permafrost studies, where data are much scarcer, albeit data from tree-ring studies have proved to be of great value in these fields as well.
Most studies using tree rings have focused on alpine environments in Europe and North America, whereas other parts of the world have been widely neglected by dendrogeomorphologists so far. We therefore challenge researchers to focus on other regions with distinct climates as well, to look on less frequently studied processes as well and to broaden and improve approaches and methods commonly used in tree-ring research so as to allow a better understanding of geomorphic processes, natural hazards and risk.