We evaluated the radial growth response of adult Nothofagus pumilio (Poepp. et Endl) Krasser trees affected by tephra deposition following historical volcanic eruptions of the Puyehue–Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex (PCCVC) in northern Patagonia. Standard tree–ring width chronologies were developed for trees from two sites that were affected by up to 55 cm of tephra during the 2011 eruption, which allowed us to detect the general tree–growth response to eruptions VEI ≥ 3 and VEI ≤ 2. The tree growth trend satisfactorily followed the mean temperature record (r = 0.42); however, the analysis of studentized residuals identified outliers (≥ ± 2 SD) directly related to the volcanic eruptions of the years 1921–1922 and 2011 and the respective post–eruption years, while for the 1960 eruption and following year, they largely exceeded the mean value of the residuals. The large amount of tephra deposited during the 1921–22 and 2011 eruptions caused physical damage to the tree canopy leading to the appearance of white rings and to locally absent rings. The rate of change in radial growth of trees during these eruptions presented significant declines in relation to the growth of five years before the eruption and to the following year. The low amount of tephra deposited during the 1960 eruption did not cause damage to the stands and trees increased their radial growth. In general, trees that had reduced radial growth experienced a remarkable recovery starting in the second or third post–eruption year. The amount of tephra deposited and the time of year of the volcanic eruptions had an important influence on tree rings. Some ecophysiological causes that could explain the growth responses of N. pumilio to tephra fall are discussed herein. Our study may provide useful insights to clarify the uncertain characteristics of some eruptions in the past or to detect the occurrence of large, undocumented volcanic eruptions throughout the Andes.
- Tree rings
- White rings