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Hemlock cross sections by Chris Fastie

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Chris Fastie Chris Fastie
Explore score
0.22 Gigapixels
Date added
Sep 24, 2011
Date taken
Sep 21, 2011

Nikon D40


In the last decade or two, many trees have fallen across a section of the Roaring Brook trail southwest of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York. Sawing the trunks to clear the trail reveals the annual rings and a clue to the age of the trees. The narrow rings can be difficult to see, so I made several closeup photos of each cross section and later stitched them into composite images with Microsoft ICE. Distinguishing individual rings is then easier, but still subject to errors because of their small size and the rough chainsaw-cut surfaces.

Even accurate ring counts provide only a clue to the tree's full age because the sections are rarely near the base of the trunk. Therefore the time it took the tree to grow to the height of the section must be estimated (the rings produced before the tree reached this height are not included in the section). In this case we must estimate the time it took the tree to grow to a height of 5 to 12 m, and add that to the ring counts to estimate each tree's age. Assuming that it takes 30-150 years for an eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) to grow 5-12 m, these trees are probably between 350 and 400 years old. I measured and crossdated the outer 200 rings of a collected sample of tree D and determined that it died in 2000. If all the trees fell at about that time, then they established between 1600 and 1650. Most of the hemlocks in this forest are still standing and just as large as the fallen ones. Other large trees in this stand include red spruce, yellow birch, and sugar maple. It's a really cool forest, and sometimes it looks like this: gigapan.org/gigapans/62976/.
More from this day here: fastie.net/?p=1138 Will open in a new tab or window

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