Direct versus indirect tree ring reconstruction of annual discharge of Chemora River, Algeria

David M. Meko, Ramzi Touchan, Dalila Kherchouche, Said Slimani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Annual river discharge is a critical variable for water resources planning and management. Tree rings are widely used to reconstruct annual discharge, but errors can be large when tree growth fails to respond commensurately to hydrologically important seasonal components of climate. This paper contrasts direct and indirect reconstruction as statistical approaches to discharge reconstruction for the Chemora River, in semi-arid northeastern Algeria, and explores indirect reconstruction as a diagnostic tool in reconstruction error analysis. We define direct reconstruction as predictions from regression of annual discharge on tree ring data, and indirect reconstruction as predictions from a four-stage process: (1) regression of precipitation on tree rings, (2) application of the regression model to get reconstructed precipitation for grid cells over the basin, (3) routing of reconstructed precipitation through a climatological water balance (WB) model, and (4) summing model runoff over cells to get the reconstructed discharge at a gage location. For comparative purposes, the potential predictors in both modeling approaches are the same principal components of tree ring width chronologies from a network of drought-sensitive sites of Pinus halepensis and Cedrus atlantica in northern Algeria. Results suggest that both modeling approaches can yield statistically significant reconstructions for the Chemora River. Greater accuracy and simplicity of the direct method are countered by conceptual physical advantages of the indirect method. The WB modeling inherent to the indirect method is useful as a diagnostic tool in error analysis of discharge reconstruction, points out the low and declining importance of snowmelt to the river discharge, and gives clues to the cause of severe underestimation of discharge in the outlier high-discharge year 1996. Results show that indirect reconstruction would benefit most in this basin from tree ring resolution of seasonal precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number986
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Algeria
  • Chemora river
  • Reconstruction
  • River discharge
  • Streamflow
  • Thornthwaite
  • Tree rings
  • Water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry


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