Growth rings across the Tree of Life: Demographic insights from biogenic time series data

Margaret E Evans, Bryan Black, Donald A. Falk, Courtney L. Giebink, Emily L. Schultz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Biogenic time series data can be generated in a single sampling effort, offering an appealing alternative to the slow process of revisiting or recapturing individuals to measure demographic rates. Annual growth rings formed by trees and in the ear bones of fish (i.e. otoliths) are prime examples of such biogenic time series. They offer insight into not only the process of growth but also birth, death, movement, and evolution, sometimes at uniquely deep temporal and large spatial scales, well beyond 5–30 years of data collected in localised study areas. This chapter first reviews the fundamentals of how tree-ring and otolith time series data are developed and analysed (i.e. dendrochronology and sclerochronology), then surveys growth rings in other organisms, along with microstructural or microcompositional variation in growth rings, and other records of demographic processes. It highlights the answers to demographic questions revealed by these time series data, such as the influence of environmental (atmospheric or ocean) conditions, competition, and disturbances on demographic processes, and the genetic versus plastic basis of individual growth and traits that influence growth. Lastly, it considers how spatial networks of biogenic, annually resolved time series data can offer insights into the importance of macrosystem atmospheric and ocean dynamics on multispecies, trophic dynamics. The authors encourage demographers to integrate the complementary information contained in biogenic time series data into population models to better understand the drivers of vital rate variation and predict the impacts of global change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDemographic Methods across the Tree of Life
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780198838609
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Dendrochronology
  • Growth
  • Sclerochronology
  • Time series
  • Tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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