Alternative standardization approaches to improving streamflow reconstructions with ring-width indices of riparian trees

David M. Meko, Jonathan M. Friedman, Ramzi Touchan, Jesse R. Edmondson, Eleanor R. Griffin, Julian A. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Old, multi-aged populations of riparian trees provide an opportunity to improve reconstructions of streamflow. Here, ring widths of 394 plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides, ssp. monilifera) trees in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, are used to reconstruct streamflow along the Little Missouri River (LMR), North Dakota, US. Different versions of the cottonwood chronology are developed by (1) age-curve standardization (ACS), using age-stratified samples and a single estimated curve of ring width against estimated ring age, and (2) time-curve standardization (TCS), using a subset of longer ring-width series individually detrended with cubic smoothing splines of width against year. The cottonwood chronologies are combined with the first principal component of four upland conifer chronologies developed by conventional methods to investigate the possible value of riparian tree-ring chronologies for streamflow reconstruction of the LMR. Regression modeling indicates that the statistical signal for flow is stronger in the riparian cottonwood than in the upland chronologies. The flow signal from cottonwood complements rather than repeats the signal from upland conifers and is especially strong in young trees (e.g. 5–35 years). Reconstructions using a combination of cottonwoods and upland conifers are found to explain more than 50% of the variance of LMR flow over a 1935–1990 calibration period and to yield reconstruction of flow to 1658. The low-frequency component of reconstructed flow is sensitive to the choice of standardization method for the cottonwood. In contrast to the TCS version, the ACS reconstruction features persistent low flows in the 19th century. Results demonstrate the value to streamflow reconstruction of riparian cottonwood and suggest that more studies are needed to exploit the low-frequency streamflow signal in densely sampled age-stratified stands of riparian trees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1101
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015


  • Little Missouri River
  • age growth
  • cottonwood
  • dendrohydrology
  • detrending
  • ‘Little Ice Age’

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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