Visual dating of rockfall scars in Larix decidua trees

Trappmann, Daniel Gordian; Stoffel, Markus (2015). Visual dating of rockfall scars in Larix decidua trees. Geomorphology, 245, pp. 62-72. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.04.030

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Dating past mass wasting with growth disturbances in trees is widely used in geochronology as the approach may yield dates of past process activity with up to subannual precision. Past work commonly focused on the extraction of increment cores, wedges, or stem cross sections. However, sampling has been shown to be constrained by sampling permissions, and the analysis of tree-ring samples requires considerable temporal efforts. To compensate for these shortcomings, we explore the potential of visual inspection of wound appearance for dating purposes. Based on a data set of 217 wood-penetrating wounds of known age inflicted to European larch (Larix decidua Mill.) by rockfall activity, we develop guidelines for the visual, noninvasive dating of wounds including (i) the counting of bark rings, (ii) a visual assessment of exposed wood and wound bark characteristics (such as the color and weathering status of wounds), and (iii) the relationship between wound age and tree diameter. A characterization of wounds based on photographs, randomly selected from the data set, reveals that young wounds typically can be dated with high precision, whereas dating errors gradually increase with increasing wound age. While visual dating does not reach the precision of dendrochronological dating, we clearly demonstrate that spatial patterns of and differences in rockfall activity can be reconstructed with both approaches. The introduction of visual dating approaches will facilitate fieldwork, especially in applied research, assist the conventional interpretation of tree-ring signals, and allow the reconstruction of geomorphic processes with considerably fewer temporal and financial efforts.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Trappmann, Daniel Gordian and Stoffel, Markus


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Elsevier Science




Daniel Gordian Trappmann

Date Deposited:

14 Aug 2015 13:50

Last Modified:

14 Aug 2015 19:41

Publisher DOI:





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