Have you ever wondered how old the trees are in your back yard?
At Beaver Ponds, the cores recently taken from live lodge pole pine show that most of the trees started growing around 1880. This date corresponds with the establishment of the Duquesne Smelter that was built in 1877 on what is now our property. The smelter would have used wood as its main source of fuel and they probably cut most of the timber in close proximity.
However! Cross-sections from several stumps at Beaver Ponds show much older dates when the trees started growing. One bristlecone pine was cross-dated with samples previously collected on Windy Ridge north of Alma. Using cross dating, the Missouri Tree Ring laboratory was able to determine this tree started growing in 1356!
This particular tree probably died or was cut down in 1845. Can you believe that on Pennsylvania Mountain, located near Beaver Ponds, most of the trees cored were estimated to be between 500 and 2000 years old?
Of the 23 bristlecone pines sampled over half showed increase growth in the past 100 years. Why there is increased growth over this time period is not clearly understood. It could be due to increased temperatures or increased concentrations of carbon dioxide due to climate change.
Thank you to South Park National Heritage Area for supporting this dendrochronology project. Your generosity allowed Beaver Ponds staff and volunteers, along with faculty from the University of Missouri Tree Ring Laboratory to help us collect, process, study and analyze tree rings, and determine the age and growth rate of the treasure trove of trees we have at Beaver Ponds and on Pennsylvania Mountain.
Thanks again to SPNHA for your support in helping us analyze our local climate through this project.