Explorations in Southeast U.S. River Streamflow Reconstructions

Authors: Clay Tucker*, Louisiana State University
Topics: Biogeography, Paleoenvironmental Change, Climatology and Meteorology
Keywords: dendrohydrology, site selection,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Tree rings provide a long-term perspective of streamflow variability at centennial to millennial time scales, but much of this research has been focused in the arid American West. However, in the wetter Southeast U.S., trees are also sensitive to soil moisture. Studies using baldcypress trees throughout the Southeast frequently show similar growth responses to streamflow patterns in the region making them ideal proxies for reconstructing basin-wide hydrology. Building from these studies, we update the existing tree-ring network to reconstruct streamflow across larger spatial and longer temporal scales in the Southeast. Exploring baldcypress correlations to streamflow reveals certain basin-wide characteristics. (1) Weather patterns in the region are similar basin-wide, both spatially and temporally. For example, streamflow in the Roanoke River basin correlates strongly to multiple chronologies (e.g., southern Georgia). (2) Trees in the same geographic region do not agree as strongly as trees growing in similar abiotic conditions. For example, a cypress swamp adjacent to the Altamaha River shows similar relationships to streamflow as a swamp in growing similar conditions along the Pascagoula River. Additionally, trees growing along blackwater rivers generally have better correlations to streamflow than backswamp trees. (3) Trees indicate that drought in the Southeast during the period 2008–2013 is likely one of the worst droughts in the past millennium. The ultimate goal of reconstructing Southeast U.S. streamflow has been successful, though further research can elucidate reasons why certain sites may provide better correlations with streamflow than others and how current drought conditions compare to those of the past.

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