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[ITRDBFOR] Field methods for aging Western red cedar stumps

Chronological Thread 
  • From: Julie Nielsen <julie_nielsen AT>
  • To: "itrdbfor AT" <itrdbfor AT>
  • Subject: [ITRDBFOR] Field methods for aging Western red cedar stumps
  • Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2019 01:07:17 +0000
  • Accept-language: en-CA, en-US

Hi all,

I was hoping to get a few expert opinions about field methodologies for aging western-red cedar trees (using stumps), as I am planning for the Spring 2019 field season. We will be attempting to age large (greater than 100cm diameter at breast height) western red cedar trees using dendrochronological methods with stumps, which will have had minimal exposure to the elements (we will access stumps 2-6 weeks post harvesting). We would like to obtain an age estimate of the stump in the field (so we are not having to bring back "stump cookies" to the lab for ring analyses). We have been advised that a small portable electric belt sander could be used to smooth out two “transects” across the stump surface area (any recommendations re: belt sanders to buy?…we are in Vancouver, Canada). We would then take photographs of ring sections along the transects in order to analyze and count the rings using a computer program (WinDENDRO) in the lab. 

Instead of sanding, it may be possible to cut out a splice of the stump surface, using a knife since cedar is a fairly soft wood, and observe the rings in the cross-section of fresh cut wood (then either take photographs of the cross-section or do a direct count of rings in situ).


We assume that counting rings in the field, even with a magnifying glass, would lead to much greater inaccuracy in aging than if the rings were analyzed from photographs in a computer program. We feel it would be much more difficult to correctly identify early and late wood rings and/or false rings in the field. We have thought two transects across the longest diameters of the stump to suffice, although would like to know if there is a standard number associated with this method.


Any comments or advice regarding the methods I have described would be much appreciated. Any other recommended methods would be welcome as well. We are unable to rough-cut a cookie off the stump with a chainsaw, due to logistics with transport etc. If anyone has done similar work with tree stumps & aging I would love to hear from you (please send along any published papers or reports you may have as well). We acknowledge that our tree age estimates are just that, estimates, as we will be dealing with a fair amount of heartwood rot in these trees, and therefore will have missing or indecipherable rings from the pith outward.   

Thank you in advance,


Julie Nielsen, MSc., RPBio.
REM PhD Candidate
Conservation and Policy Research Group
Forest Ecology and Management Lab
School of Resource and Environmental Management
Simon Fraser University

I respectfully acknowledge that I work and live on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

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