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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

New insights into estimating the age of old Scots pine from increment cores with stem rot

Baudet, M.; Josefsson, T.; Ostlund, L.


Trunk inner rot is a common phenomenon in some old-growth pine dominated forests, making it impossible to determine tree age by counting annual rings. We compared the efficiency of five methods to estimate the age of hollow pine trees (Pinus sylvestris L.). Our main aims were to select the best-performing method and to test whether the age of the tree or the proportion of rot influences the accuracy of estimation. We used full increment cores (reaching the pith or within 1 cm of it) from 100 trees (54-562 years old) collected in northern Sweden and simulated rotten centres of three different sizes in order to test the methods. The lowest error rates were obtained when less than a third of the sample was missing (down to 5.0 % error rate), and by using a method based on the growth pattern of a set of healthy trees. Using linear extrapolation of the mean radial growth led to large overestimates (up to three times the number of absent rings) with error rates up to 27.3 %. We also found that the performance of all methods was reduced in cores from older trees. Our main conclusion is that non-linear methods should be preferred for age estimation of hollow pines. We also argue that more precision in the age estimation could be gained already in the field by collecting multiple cores from rotten trees or by developing alternative coring methods.


Scots pine; Pinus sylvestris; Tree age; Dendrochronology; Partial core; Tree rot

Published in

2020, Volume: 64, article number: 125782