Laboratory of Dendrochronology

The short history of dendrochronology in Lithuania

based on the shortened version from "Bitvinskas T. 1998. Development and trends of dendrochronology in Lithuania. Proceedings of International Conference Eurodendro-98. Kaunas, Vytautas Magnus University, pp. 77-83" with extension to present date

     The first dendrochronological research in Lithuania was carried out by T. Bitvinskas on black alder stands of Biržai forest in 1953. The summary of obtained results was published in a journal "Girios" (1961). The first broader research on tree rings in Lithuania carried out specialists in Forestry.   They belonged to the research on forest increment started by Dr. Vaidotas Antanaitis in 1960-1962 at the Lithuanian Forest Planning Project and therefore, this work had a nature of the ecological and forest research. The Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris (L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karsten) in a wide area - Varėna, Švenčionys, Zarasai, Rokiškis and in other Forest Enterprises from the driest to the wettest and from the unproductive to the most fertile forest sites were examined. The research gave a good insight in the dynamic of the radial increment in different forest sites. The results of the increment were made known in a collective monograph-report "Increment of Lithuanian Forests in 1959-1965".
        Later this was further developed in the dissertation of T. Bitvinskas "Dynamic of the increment of Pine Forests of Lithuanian and the Possibilities of Prognosis", defended in Timiriazev Agricultural Academy in 1966. The Solar activity and the atmospheric circulation in the 11, 22, 44 and 88-year cycles was shown to be one of the main causes determining the cyclic regularities of the pine increment (11-year cycles in dry and moderately wet sites and 22-year in bogs). Only ten years later some American scientists (Stockton et all.) have admitted the influence of the Solar and its significance in natural rhythms. In his dissertation and monograph "Dendrochronological research" (published in 1974) T. Bitvinskas also presented simple and suitable methods of evaluating the anthropogenic (e.g. forest drainage) and others (e.g. zoological) activities on tree rings.
        January of 1968 saw the establishment of a Dendroclimatochronology group (1 st of January) at the Flora and Geobotany Section of Botanical Institute of Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. The Group was located in Kaunas, Laisvės al. 53. In 1968 the first joint dendrochronological and dendroclimatological meeting in the former USSR took place in Vilnius. This meeting was attended by over twenty various specialists in the fields of physics, biology, climatology, forestry, and archaeology. A world known academician Boris Konstantinov (one of the creators of the hydrogen bomb) in the conference stressed the interesting possibility to assess the environmental extremes from tree rings by using radiocarbon method. Reports were presented by Lithuanian scientists - L. Kairiūkštis, A. Juodvalkis, R. Šleinys, and V. Ščemeliovas. T. Bitvinskas suggestions to research fossils of pine stumps from upland and moderately high peat-bogs and to create the long-term chronologies, offered during this discussion, were only put into practice thirty years later.
        While organizing scientific conferences in the field of dendrochronology in 1980, Lithuanian scientists upheld their advanced position in the Soviet Union. In November of 1971 an important conference on radiocarbon in the atmosphere of the Earth and the dating problems of radiocarbon in Kaunas was held. During this conference, reports were presented by T. Bitvinskas, J. Kairaitis, I. Čerškienė, R. Pakalnis, K. Šulija, J. Banys and others. Another conference in Kaunas in October of 1972 "Dendroclimatochronology and Radiocarbon" in which together with the above mentioned P. Zakarka, E. Maleckas, and J. Butėnas also participated.
        The first generalization of separate publications, enlarging the ideas of B. Konstantinov and G. Kocharov, appeared in 1970: "Variations of radiocarbon in the atmosphere of the Earth and dendrochronological and dendroclimatological research" (authors- B. Konstantinov, G. Kocharov, K. Jankevičius, T. Bitvinskas, and V. Dergachev). It was concluded that in the future it might be possible to establish the annual regularities of the climatic changes in Holocene during the last 4-6 thousands years using the subfossil wood preserved in peat-bogs and alluvial deposits of the rivers. These ideas were also emphasized in July of 1975 during the 2nd Botanical Congress in Leningrad.
        A symposium entitled "Bioecological Foundations of the Plant Life Rational Use, Change and Preservation" took place with the approval of the Science Council of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In its session in Tallinn (16-17 04 1974) a commission of Dendroclimatological research was established and academician L. Kairiūkštis became its president. T. Bitvinskas was assigned to be a vice president. The commission comprised of that time famous foresters, biologists, archaeologists and geographers such as: A. Molchanov, G. Gortinskij, B. Kolchin, G. Komin, S. Shijatov, M. Rozanov and others. This commission and its leaders stimulated dendrochronological and dendroclimatological research in the former USSR and organized conferences and published special articles. Meetings on dendrochronology took place in Tbilisi (1973, 1976), conferences were held in Irkutsk (1987) and Sverdlovsk (1990).
        Dendrochronological investigations in the Lithuanian Agricultural Academy, Faculty of Forestry has been carried out by V. Antanaitis and P. Žadeikis (1977), V. Antanaitis and B. Zagreev (1969), V. Antanaitis and R. Juknys (1978). The first dissertation on dendroclimatology was defended by Irena Čerškienė in 1975. T. Kapustinskaitė and J. Ruseckas in Lithuanian Forestry Research Institute started investigated wet and swampy alder and spruce forests, applying the dendrochronological methods. Vida Stravinskienė defended dissertation in 1981 on the topic "Dendroclimatological analysis of tree increment in the hydro-improved forests of Lithuania". L. Kairiūkštis and J. Dubinskaitė-Venclovienė worked on the ecological forecast based on tree increment cycles. The academician Leonardas Kairiūkštis is noteworthy for consolidating the strength of dendrochronologists in the former USSR and abroad, especially while working in Laxenburg (IIASA). Due to his efforts international dendrochronology was discussed in Warsaw (1986), Albania (1986), Joensuu (1987) and elsewhere.
        Having been approved by the Research Commission and with the financing of the Institute of Botany of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, the Dendroclimatochronology Laboratory in Kaunas, Laisves al. 53 in January 1968 was established. The first published series of scientific work were three volumes entitled "Climatic Changes in Time and Space and Tree Rings" (1978, 1981, 1984, and 1987). Another series was called "Dendroclimatological Chronologies of the Soviet Union" of which there were four volumes. T. Bitvinskas was the editor of both series. The volumes contain 194 chronologies. Unfortunately, when the Laboratory status and financing possibilities changed, the further issues were discontinued. The research on seasonal radial growth and meteorological observation in Vaišnoriškė village of Aukštaitija National Park has started in 1976. Measurements of ground water level in a bog have been carried out since 1997.
        The exchange of published material with foreign scientists through Library of Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (up to 150 copies of our publications to the foreign Dendrochronology centers) it became possible to publish a world bibliographic index "Dendroclimatochronology 1900-1970" (by the Central Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in 1978). It contained 2112 references. In 1995 the Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (bibliographer S. Norkūnienė) prepared a bibliography "Dendroclimatochronology 1971-1980". It contains 2616 references.
        J.M. Fletcher presented a surprise in the International Dendrochronology Symposium - a translation of publications of the Conferences held in Lithuania (in 1968, 1970, 1972). The three volumes (in English translation) of "Soviet publications in dendrochronology" were published in the University of Arizona Tree-Ring Laboratory (1986, 1987, and 1993). T. Bitvinskas monograph was published in the first volume, but some years later only the author became aware that this was done.
        T. Bitvinskas defended his doctoral dissertation "Bioecological Foundation of the Dendrochronological Research" in Sverdlovsk in 1984. That same year, Jonas Karpavičius in Minsk maintained his dissertation "Changes of the individual and group radial increment of Scots pine in a zone of mixed forests". Aleksandra Stupneva at the Pulkov Observatory defended dissertation of physics-mathematics: “Solar activity in the past and its dependent phenomena in the Earth” in 1986 using dendrochronological transect Murmansk - Lithuania - the Carpathians.
        Dr. R. Pukienė compiled a 2200 year pine chronology from stems and stumps of pine wood preserved in a raised bog Užpelkių tyrelis (Plungė region). It was presented in the dissertation "Pinewood growth dynamics in Užpelkių Tyrelis oligotrophic bog during the Subatlantic Period" (1997). A rich collection of subfossil oak from Smurgainiai (Byelorussia) gravel pit was accumulated. The oldest oaks according to radiocarbon dates grew 5300-5550 BC.
        Laboratory of dendrochronology was one of the organizers of International Scientific Conference "Eurodendro - 98" held on 17-21st June of 1998 in Kaunas.
       In 2001-2004 Laboratory participated in a joint research project "Complex investigation of Stone Age pile dwelling settlements". During the work, Žemaitiškė-2 pile dwelling settlement was investigated by dendrochronological means. Archaeological excavations and restoration of Grand Duke's Palace in Vilnius allowed to investigate historical timber findings. This work is being performed by R. Pukienė.
        In 2002-2006 we participated in two International projects INTAS and ISONET. The main goal of the projects was stable isotopes from pine tree rings (C, H, O) for the last 400 years. Because there isn't such old living pines trees in Lithuania, the wood for the earlier period was taken from wood contsructions (Churches, Monasteries). As a result, older material was revisited and building dates or reconstruction dates of historical buildings were revised.
        The Laboratory of Dendrochronology was re-organized into a Group of Dendroclimatology and Radiometrics of Environmental Research Centre in 2003. 


        In 2010, with collaboration with scientists from Kaunas Botanical Garden a project Arbodiagnostika was started. The project is aimed to the investigation of distribution of Phytophthora pathogenic fungi in valuable trees using an impulsometric device Arbotom. Besides the short extent study on European mistletoe has been carried out.
        In 2012, the 2nd International Conference "Baltdendro 2012" was organized.

    In April of 2015, the Group of Dendroclimatology and Radiometrics formally has suspended scientific activity because of the loss of workspace.  Our website will be  maintained further on the voluntary basis.

Heads of the Dendrochronological Laboratory (1976-2003)

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