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Dating young geomorphic surfaces using age of colonizing Douglas fir in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon, USA

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Author(s): Thomas C. Pierson

Document Type:
Publisher: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Published Year: 2006
Volume: 32
Number: 6
Pages: 811 to 831
DOI Identifier: 10.1002/esp.1445
ISBN Identifier:

Dating of dynamic, young (<500 years) geomorphic landforms, particularly volcanofluvial features, requires higher precision than is possible with radiocarbon dating. Minimum ages of recently created landforms have long been obtained from tree-ring ages of the oldest trees growing on new surfaces. But to estimate the year of landform creation requires that two time corrections be added to tree ages obtained from increment cores: (1) the time interval between stabilization of the new landform surface and germination of the sampled trees (germination lag time or GLT); and (2) the interval between seedling germination and growth to sampling height, if the trees are not cored at ground level. The sum of these two time intervals is the colonization time gap (CTG). Such time corrections have been needed for more precise dating of terraces and floodplains in lowland river valleys in the Cascade Range, where significant eruption-induced lateral shifting and vertical aggradation of channels can occur over years to decades, and where timing of such geomorphic changes can be critical to emergency planning.

Earliest colonizing Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) were sampled for tree-ring dating at eight sites on lowland (<750 m a.s.l.), recently formed surfaces of known age near three Cascade volcanoes – Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood – in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon. Increment cores or stem sections were taken at breast height and, where possible, at ground level from the largest, oldest-looking trees at each study site. At least ten trees were sampled at each site unless the total of early colonizers was less. Results indicate that a correction of four years should be used for GLT and 10 years for CTG if the single largest (and presumed oldest) Douglas fir growing on a surface of unknown age is sampled. This approach would have a potential error of up to 20 years. Error can be reduced by sampling the five largest Douglas fir instead of the single largest. A GLT correction of 5 years should be added to the mean ring-count age of the five largest trees growing on the surface being dated, if the trees are cored at ground level. This correction would have an approximate error of ±5 years. If the trees are cored at about 1.4 m above the ground surface (breast height), a CTG correction of 11 years should be added to the mean age of the five sampled trees (with an error of about ±7 years).

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Pierson (2006) or (Pierson, 2006)

References Citation:
Pierson, T.C., 2006, Dating young geomorphic surfaces using age of colonizing Douglas fir in southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon, USA: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Vol. 32, No. 6, pp. 811-831, doi: 10.1002/esp.1445.