Reconstructing Flow History From Riparian Tree Rings
Science Center Objects
Aquatic Systems Branch scientists analyze rings of riparian trees relating tree growth and establishment to historical flow. We then use the tree rings to reconstruct the flow in past centuries. Flow reconstructions discover the frequency and magnitude of past droughts and floods—information that is essential for management of rivers and water supplies. We also use downscaled climate projections and watershed models to predict changes in flow and tree growth resulting from human-induced climate change. We have pioneered the use of cottonwood, a dominant riparian species, for tree ring analysis; this is a significant advance in arid regions where old trees of other species are scarce. Ongoing studies focus on rivers of the Upper Missouri Basin and the Tarim River in China.
This dataset includes aerial imagery of the Little Missouri River in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND from 1939 to 2005, as well as shape files delineating the channel in each image. These data were analyzed in:
Miller, J.R., and J.M. Friedman. 2009. Influence of flow variability on flood-plain formation and destruction, Little Missouri River, North Dakota. Geological Society of America Bulletin 121:752-759.