Refining the standardized growth change method for pointer year detection: Accounting for statistical bias and estimating the deflection period



Buras A, Ovenden T, Rammig A & Zang CS (2022) Refining the standardized growth change method for pointer year detection: Accounting for statistical bias and estimating the deflection period. Dendrochronologia, 74, Art. No.: 125964.

Detecting pointer years in tree-ring data is a central aspect of dendroecology. Pointer years are usually represented by extraordinary secondary tree growth, which is often interpreted as a response to abnormal environmental conditions such as late-frosts or droughts. Objectively identifying pointer years in larger tree-ring networks and relating those to specific climatic conditions will allow for refining our understanding of how trees perform under extreme climate and consequently, under anticipated climate change. Recently, Buras et al. (2020) demonstrated that frequently used pointer-year detection methods were either too sensitive or insensitive for such large scale analyses. In their study, Buras et al. (2020) proposed a novel approach for detecting pointer years – the standardized growth change (SGC) method which outperformed other pointer-year detection methods in pseudopopulation trials. Yet, the authors concluded that SGC could be improved further to account for the inability to detect pointer years following successive growth decline. Under this framework, we here present a refined version of the SGC-method – the bias-adjusted standardized growth change method (BSGC). The methodological adjustment to the SGC approach comprises conflated probabilities derived from standardized growth changes with probabilities derived from a time-step specific global standardization of growth changes. In addition, BSGC allows for estimating the length of the deflection period, i.e. the period before extraordinary growth values have reached normal levels. Application of BSGC to simulated and measured tree-ring data indicated an improved performance in comparison to SGC which allows for the identification of pointer years following years of successive growth decline. Also, deflection period lengths were estimated well and revealed plausible results for an existing tree-ring data set. Based on these validations, BSGC can be considered a further refinement of pointer-year detection, allowing for a more accurate identification and consequently better understanding of the radial growth response of trees to extreme events.

Growth legacies; Resilience analysis; Dendroecology; Climate change; Statistical tools; DendRolAB

Dendrochronologia: Volume 74

Publication date31/08/2022
Publication date online31/05/2022
Date accepted by journal07/05/2022
PublisherElsevier BV

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Mr Tom Ovenden
Mr Tom Ovenden

PhD Researcher, Biological and Environmental Sciences