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Tales Tree Rings Tell

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What can tree rings tell us?

Pretty much any schoolkid knows you can learn a tree's age by counting its rings. But that's just the start of the tale. Within the concentric circles that carve out the years of their lives, trees hold records of droughts, floods, fires and more. By piecing those records together, the science of dendrochronology can help us understand the past and imagine the future.

"Every tree has its own story to tell," Scott St. George, told the audience at IonE's Frontiers on the Environment lecture this week. "We can tease out that story from the record of the rings."

An assistant professor in the U of M's Department of Geography and Center for Dendrochronology, St. George is an expert in learning about the past through the eyes of an oak, white pine or cedar.

Among other things, he said, trees provide a window on infrequent events of an otherwise unrecorded past, such as floods along the Red River of the North and fires the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

"If we understand how these systems work, we're going to be in a better position to make decisions in the future," St. George said.

Learn more about what trees rings have to tell us - and how a native of the Canadian high prairie got into the business of dendrochronology in the first place - by watching St. George's archived presentation here.

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.