Regional scale tree-ring reconstructions of hydroclimate dynamics and Pacific salmon abundance in west central British Columbia

Date

2011-06-07

Authors

Starheim, Colette Christiane Angela

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Abstract

Long-duration records are necessary to understand and assess the long-term dynamics of natural systems. The purpose of this research was to use dendrochronologic modelling to construct proxy histories of hydroclimatic conditions and Pacific salmon abundance in west central British Columbia. A multi-species regional network of tree ring-width and ring-density measurements was established from new and archived tree-ring chronologies. These chronologies were then used in multivariate linear regression models to construct proxy records of nival river discharge, summer temperature, end-of-winter snow-water equivalent (SWE), the winter Pacific North America pattern (PNA) and Pacific salmon abundance. All proxy hydroclimate records provide information back to 1660 AD. Reconstructions of July-August mean runoff for the Skeena and Atnarko rivers describe below average conditions during the early- to mid-1700s and parts of the early-, mid- and late-1900s. Models describe intervals of above average river discharge during the late-1600s, the early-1700s and 1800s, and parts of the early- and mid-1900s. Fluctuations in proxy reconstructions of July-August mean temperature for Wistaria and Tatlayoko Lake, May 1 SWE at Mount Cronin and Tatlayoko Lake and October-February PNA occurred in near synchrony with the shifts described in runoff records. Episodes of above average runoff were typically associated with periods of enhanced end-of-winter SWE, below average summer temperature and positive winter PNA. A history of Pacific salmon abundance was reconstructed for four species of salmon (chinook, sockeye, chum and pink) that migrate to coastal watersheds of west central British Columbia. Proxy records vary in length and extend from 1400 AD, 1536 AD and 1638 AD to present. Salmon abundance reconstructions varied throughout the past six centuries and described significant collapse in population levels during the early-1400s, the late-1500s, the mid-1600s, the early-1700s, the early-1800s and parts of the 1900s. Wavelet analyses of reconstructed hydroclimate and salmon population records revealed low- and high-frequency cycles in the data. Correlation analyses related reconstructions to atmospheric teleconnection indices describing variability in North Pacific sea surface temperatures and the Aleutian Low pressure centre. To a lesser degree, relationships were also established between reconstructions and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Results thus confirm the long-term influence of large-scale ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns on hydroclimate and Pacific salmon abundance in west central British Columbia. The reconstructions introduced in this thesis provide insights about the long-term dynamics of the west central British Columbia environment. Several reconstructions presented in this thesis provide novel contributions to dendrohydroclimatic and paleoecologic research in Pacific North America. Proxy runoff records for the Skeena and Atnarko rivers are the first to be constructed for nival-regime basins in British Columbia. The models of Skeena River runoff and Mount Cronin SWE are additionally the first reconstructions of runoff and snowpack in Pacific North America based on a ring-density chronology, demonstrating the significant contribution that wood density measurements can make to dendrohydroclimate research. The models of Pacific salmon stocks are the first to utilize climate-sensitive tree-ring records to construct a history of regional salmon abundance and thus represent a significant advancement to paleoecological modelling.

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Keywords

dendrochronology, hydroclimatology, paleohydrology, paleoclimatology, paleoecology, geography, tree ring-width, tree ring-density, reconstruction modelling, nival, ocean atmospheric circulation

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