Shawn Wortham and Matthew Bekker, Geography
The purpose of this research project is to properly cross date samples of the Bristlecone Pine Tree in order to learn more of the past, present, and future of Utah’s Water Resources. Under the mentorship of Dr. Bekker, we will take both living and dead cross sections of the Bristlecone Pine Trees found in Red Canyon, UT and add them to a tree ring database with hundreds of other samples. This will build a master chronology of tree ring measurements to help our team to discover more about the water supply for Utah.
When Mormon pioneers first established a civilization in the Salt Lake Valley, the land was dry and baron. They realized very quickly that their survival depended on their ability to utilize the water generated by the snowcapped mountains. Although society today is not on the brink of survival like the early pioneers, our water supply is not infinite and it can change our quality of life for better or for worse. Climate plays a large role in the supply of water during the year. This makes it vital to find climate patterns in order to learn how to properly manage our natural resources. The problem that climatologists face is that instrument streamflow records provide information that dates back only 100 years.
Recently, new technology has permitted researchers, such as myself, to find the same type of records through trees rings. We have chosen to use the Bristlecone Pine Tree to aid us in our research because it is the oldest living organism on earth. This means that there are a lot of tree rings, and each ring varies in size. The size indicates to us if the tree was sufficiently nourished and was able to grow, or if there was a drought depriving the tree of nutrients. Luckily, there is a small grove of Bristlecone Pines that is isolated on a mountainside in a canyon close to Fillmore. With this species of tree so close, we have an amazing opportunity to find streamflow information from even one thousand years ago. This research could be the breakthrough for all climatology records on the Wasatch Front. By processing this data, Utah societies can be more efficient and informed when dealing with our water resources.
Although the concept of counting rings seems simple, the work that we are about to embark in will take months. To get to the site and extract about 100 samples, it requires 3 days in the forest. After our fieldwork, each piece needs to be mounted to plywood and properly labeled. After the sample is mounted, it goes to a woodshop to be sanded with at least 7 different grits of sand paper in order to give the wood a marble-like clarity. The samples are then ready for crossdating. Cross dating is the process used to find patterns in the tree rings with a microscope. Trees from the same site tend to have large and small rings in the same order. Once the samples are all measured and each ring is given a year, we can discover very interesting events. The tree rings can tell us when there were forest fires, flash floods, or even when an animal might have died at its base.
We received extraordinary results through researching the Bristlecone Pine Tree. Just with the first samples received we were able to find data from up to 2000 years ago.
- Water is generally a stable resource (slight recession) • Water supply has stabilized more in the past 1000 years
- Tree rings E(v(y))≈0
- Tree rings E(y)≈1000
- (See figure 1)
We cannot come to a certain conclusion, but our results are convincing that the earth does have a cycle of water surplus and shortage. Attachment 1 shows the width of tree rings, which highly correlations with water distribution. Many researchers try to prove that water availability is increasing or decreasing. Our research can add to the discussion.
The Bristlecone Pine is a great specimen for tree ring research. It has many rings that date back over 2000 years. Through studying the tree rings of the Bristlecone Pine, water distribution charts such as the one in figure 1 can be created to help us understand the water distribution in local areas.