Dendroecological Potential of Appalachian Riverscour Woodland Trees


  • Haidyn DePinho Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, Concord University, Athens, USA
  • Thomas Saladyga Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, Concord University, Athens, USA



New River, riverscour, dendrochronology, hydroclimate, American elm, persimmon


Appalachian riverscour woodlands are intermittently flooded areas along high-energy rivers characterized by exposed bedrock and poorly developed sandy soils, high plant diversity, and scattered and stunted trees.  These sites can be negatively impacted by dam construction and alterations to river hydrology, trampling associated with riverside recreation activities, and non-native species.  In West Virginia, little is known about the development of riverscour woodlands or the growth and hydroclimate sensitivity of associated tree species.  In this exploratory study, our objectives were to evaluate our ability to crossdate riverscour woodland trees (i.e., assign accurate calendar years to annual growth rings) as well as determine stand structure and tree establishment patterns at one site along the New River in Fayette County, West Virginia.  In addition, for two species, Ulmus americana and Diospyros virginiana, we examined annual growth trends and relationships between tree growth and monthly hydroclimate, including streamflow, precipitation, and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI).  Seventy-three percent of all ring-width measurement series were crossdated, but results were mixed across species.  Most trees were less than 50 years old and no trees established before the late 1940s.  Both U. americana and D. virginiana were highly sensitive to April–August hydroclimate, but differed in response to previous year moisture availability.  These findings provide new direction for the use of riverscour woodland trees in future dendroecological studies.


Alley, W.M. 1984. The Palmer drought severity index: limitations and assumptions. J. Appl. Meteorol. Climatol. 23(7): 1100-1109.

Anderson, C.J. and W.J. Mitsch. 2008. Tree basal growth response to flooding in a bottomland hardwood forest in central Ohio. J. Am. Water. Resour. Assoc. 44(6): 1512-1520.

Cartwright, J.M. and W.J Wolfe. 2016. Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate (No. 1828). US Geological Survey.

Cook, E.R. 1985. Arstan (Computer program). Columbia University, New York, NY.

Copenheaver, C.A., L.E. Hendrick, J.W. Houchins, and C.D. Pearce. 2010. Changes in growth and dendroclimatic response of trees growing along an artificial lake. Am. Midl. Nat. 163(1): 134-145.

Copenheaver, C.A., M.W. Yancey, E. Pantaleoni, and V.R. Emrick. 2007. Dendroclimatic analysis of a bottomland hardwood forest: floodplain vs. terrace responses. The J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 134(4): 505-511.

Dudek, D.M., J.R. McClenahen, and W.J. Mitsch. 1998. Tree growth responses of Populus deltoides and Juglans nigra to streamflow and climate in a bottomland hardwood forest in central Ohio. Am. Midl. Nat. 140(2): 233-244.

Grissino-Mayer, H.D. 1993. An updated list of tree species used in tree-ring research. Tree Ring Res. 53:17–43.

Grissino-Mayer, H.D. 2001. Evaluating crossdating accuracy: A manual and tutorial for the computer program COFECHA. Tree-Ring Res. 57:205– 221.

Hessl, A. and N. Pederson. 2013. Hemlock Legacy Project (HeLP) A paleoecological requiem for eastern hemlock. Prog. Phys. Geogr. 37(1): 114-129.

International Tree-Ring Data Bank (ITRDB). 2023. Website: Retrieved January 18, 2023.

Johnson, W.C., 2002. Riparian vegetation diversity along regulated rivers: contribution of novel and relict habitats. Freshw. Biol. 47(4): 749-759.

Kincaid, J.A., 2017. The Effects of Climate on Radial Growth of Disjunct Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.) in Virginia. Va. J. Sci. 68(3): 6.

Kutta, E. and J. Hubbart. 2019. Climatic trends of West Virginia: A representative Appalachian microcosm. Water. 11(6): 1117.

Larsson, L.Å. 2016. CDendro & CooRecorder Program Package, Version 9.8.1. Available at:

Lorimer, C.G. and L.E. Frelich. 1989. A methodology for estimating canopy disturbance frequency and intensity in dense temperate forests. Can. J. For. Res. 19: 651-663.

Meko, M.D. and M.D. Therrell. 2020. A record of flooding on the White River, Arkansas derived from tree-ring anatomical variability and vessel width. Phys. Geogr. 41(1): 83-98.

Mitsch, W.J. and W.G. Rust. 1984. Tree growth responses to flooding in a bottomland forest in northeastern Illinois. For. Sci. 30(2): 499-510.

Mueller-Dombois, D. and H. Ellenberg. 1974. Aims and methods of vegetation ecology. Wiley. Hoboken, New Jersey.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 2023. Climate at a Glance. Website. Retrieved January 17, 2023.

Nilsson, C. and M. Svedmark. 2002. Basic principles and ecological consequences of changing water regimes: riparian plant communities. Environ. Manage. 30: 468-480.

Oswalt, S.N. and S.L. King. 2005. Channelization and floodplain forests: impacts of accelerated sedimentation and valley plug formation on floodplain forests of the Middle Fork Forked Deer River, Tennessee, USA. For. Ecol. Manag. 215(1-3): 69-83.

Palmer, W.C. 1965. Meteorological Drought. Research paper 45. U.S. Weather Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Perles, S., T. Fotinos, and E.M. Raskin. 2022. Strategies for Long-Term Monitoring of Riverscour Plant Communities to Inform Science-Based Management. Nat. Areas J. 42(3): 177-184.

Piao, T.F., S.H. Chung, S.K. Kang, D.Y. Kim, H.S. Lee, D.J. Yeom, and J.H. Kim. 2009. The evaluation of ecological attributes in a natural deciduous forest using point‐centered quarter method. Forest. Sci. Technol. 5(1): 10-16.

Podniesinski, G.S., M. Furedi, B.A. Eichelberger, and S.J. Perles. 2010. Conceptual models and recommendations for monitoring riparian plant communities within riverine parks of the Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network. Natural Resource Report NPS/NER/NRR—2010/023. National Park Service, Philadelphia, P.A.

Saladyga, T., J. Vanderhorst, and J. Cline, 2020. Successional dynamics of an Appalachian pin oak (Quercus palustris Münchh.) swamp forest. J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 147(1): 22-37.

Schweingruber, F.H., D. Eckstein, F. Serre-Bachet, and O.U. Bräker. 1990. Identification, presentation and interpretation of event years and pointer years in dendrochronology. Dendrochronologia. 8: 9-38.

Speer, J.H., 2010. Fundamentals of tree-ring research. University of Arizona Press.

Trouillier, M., M. van der Maaten-Theunissen, T. Scharnweber, D. Würth, A. Burger, M. Schnittler, and M. Wilmking. 2019. Size matters—a comparison of three methods to assess age-and size-dependent climate sensitivity of trees. Trees. 33: 183-192.

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 2023. Bluestone Dam, Dam Safety Assurance Mega-Project. Website: Retrieved March 30, 2023.

United States Geological Survey (USGS). 2023. National Water Information System. USGS Surface-Water Data for the Nation. Website: Retrieved January 17, 2023.

Vanderhorst, J.P., J. Jeuck, and S.C. Gawler. 2007. Vegetation Classification and Mapping of New River Gorge National River, West Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR—2007/092. National Park Service. Philadelphia, P.A.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). 2019. Plots2—WV database of community ecology plots. West Virginia Natural Heritage Program, Elkins, W.V.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). 2022a. Riverscour Prairies. Website: Retrieved April 27, 2022.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). 2022b. Vegetation Classification for West Virginia: a list of Associations of the U. S. National Vegetation verified to occur in West Virginia and their conservation status ranks, version 4.22.1 (sortable spreadsheet). Natural Heritage Program. Elkins, W.V.

White, J.C. and W.K. Smith, 2015. Seasonal variation in water sources of the riparian tree species Acer negundo and Betula nigra, southern Appalachian foothills, USA. Botany. 93(8): 519-528.

Wolfe, W.J., K.C. Fitch, and D.E. Ladd. 2007. Alluvial bars of the Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee. U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Map 2007-2972. United States Geological Survey. Knoxville, T.N.




How to Cite

DePinho, H., & Saladyga, T. (2023). Dendroecological Potential of Appalachian Riverscour Woodland Trees. Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science, 95(3).



Research Articles