Science Diaries: Tree Rings Increment Borer

Science Diaries: Tree Rings Increment Borer

Ambiance: Chainsaw, increment borer

JM: Tree rings can reveal a lot of information about a tree and its environment. But is it worth killing the tree to get access to those rings? Besides, as foresters and scientists are well aware, there’s a much better option. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.

EC: There’s a misunderstanding sometimes that when we sample trees for dendrochronology purposes, we cut the tree down and therefore kill it, but in fact we typically take a long core of wood from the tree using an instrument called a Swedish increment borer.

JM: Edward Cook is director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. His team uses increment borers to extract pencil-thin core samples. Analyzing the tree rings on these cores gives scientists clues about climate trends throughout the tree’s life.

EC: It’s a long steel tube with a threaded cutting tip on the end. When you push it against the tree, the threads catch in the wood. And then as you turn the increment borer with a T-handle, the threads pull the borer into the tree, and the cutting tip cuts the wood along the way, and the core of wood goes inside the tube of the increment borer. We then put these cores of wood in straws in the field, to protect them from damage, bring them back to the lab, and then take the cores of wood out of the straws, mount them in what we call mounting sticks, sand up the tree rings to expose the annual rings. This tool takes out about a 5 mm diameter core of wood, and that’s it. It leaves a very minimal wound on the tree. Specific trees that I know I cored 20 years ago, and I’ve recored them, the wood is sound, the trees are quite healthy, and there’s no sign of any significant long-lasting injury to the tree.

JM: Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diaries: Tree Rings Increment Borer

There are better tools than a chain saw to access a tree's annual growth rings.
Air Date:05/30/2012
Scientist:
Transcript:

Science Diaries: Tree Rings Increment Borer

Ambiance: Chainsaw, increment borer

JM: Tree rings can reveal a lot of information about a tree and its environment. But is it worth killing the tree to get access to those rings? Besides, as foresters and scientists are well aware, there's a much better option. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.

EC: There's a misunderstanding sometimes that when we sample trees for dendrochronology purposes, we cut the tree down and therefore kill it, but in fact we typically take a long core of wood from the tree using an instrument called a Swedish increment borer.

JM: Edward Cook is director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. His team uses increment borers to extract pencil-thin core samples. Analyzing the tree rings on these cores gives scientists clues about climate trends throughout the tree's life.

EC: It's a long steel tube with a threaded cutting tip on the end. When you push it against the tree, the threads catch in the wood. And then as you turn the increment borer with a T-handle, the threads pull the borer into the tree, and the cutting tip cuts the wood along the way, and the core of wood goes inside the tube of the increment borer. We then put these cores of wood in straws in the field, to protect them from damage, bring them back to the lab, and then take the cores of wood out of the straws, mount them in what we call mounting sticks, sand up the tree rings to expose the annual rings. This tool takes out about a 5 mm diameter core of wood, and that's it. It leaves a very minimal wound on the tree. Specific trees that I know I cored 20 years ago, and I've recored them, the wood is sound, the trees are quite healthy, and there's no sign of any significant long-lasting injury to the tree.

JM: Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.