Research ProjectTree Growth

Tree Growth: a Fundamental Measurement

  • Cell structure of tulip poplar

    wood cells of tulip poplar

    A microscopic view of tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) growth rings.

  • View of a dendrometer band on a white oak

    dendrometer bands

    A dendrometer band on a white oak (Quercus alba).

  • A volunteer using a dendrometer tape to measure a hickory tree

    Measuring trees

    Chris uses a dendrometer tape to measure the diameter of a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa).

Project Goal

We are exploring tree growth using a number of tools at several scales: from cell addition during the growing season, dendrometer band measurements through the year, and annual surveys of thousands of trees.


Tree growth is fundamental to the carbon cycle, strongly correlates with survival, and reflects evolutionary tradeoffs in allocation strategies. Yet growth, whether bole growth, root growth, or leaf turnover is remarkably difficult to measure.

In 2014 we completed the second census of our ForestGEO plot here at SERC. CTFS-ForestGEO is a network of forest plots across the world. The sites follow the same protocol to create a vast database that offers millions of growth measurements on a five year re-measurement cycle.