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Progress in Australian dendroclimatology: Identifying growth limiting factors in four climate zones
journal contributionposted on 2018-05-03, 00:00 authored by Heather HainesHeather Haines, JM Olley, J Kemp, NB English
Dendroclimatology can be used to better understand past climate in regions such as Australia where instrumental and historical climate records are sparse and rarely extend beyond 100 years. Here we review 36 Australian dendroclimatic studies which cover the four major climate zones of Australia; temperate, arid, subtropical and tropical. We show that all of these zones contain tree and shrub species which have the potential to provide high quality records of past climate. Despite this potential only four dendroclimatic reconstructions have been published for Australia, one from each of the climate zones: A 3592 year temperature record for the SE-temperate zone, a 350 year rainfall record for the Western arid zone, a 140 year rainfall record for the northern tropics and a 146 year rainfall record for SE-subtropics. We report on the spatial distribution of tree-ring studies, the environmental variables identified as limiting tree growth in each study, and identify the key challenges in using tree-ring records for climate reconstruction in Australia. We show that many Australian species have yet to be tested for dendroclimatological potential, and that the application of newer techniques including isotopic analysis, carbon dating, wood density measurements, and anatomical analysis, combined with traditional ring-width measurements should enable more species in each of the climate zones to be used, and long-term climate records to be developed across the entire continent.