A dendrogeomorphological approach is presented, using wood characteristics of native oak (Quercus robur L.) to infer dynamics of aeolian sediment transport in drift-sand areas. Wood samples, taken from oaks in two drift-sand areas, were analysed to study changes in tree-ring pattern and wood anatomy as a consequence of burying or exposure from drift sand.
In all cases, the wood of the sampled oaks showed sudden changes in anatomy and tree-ring width due to burial by drift sand or subsequent exposure after erosion of the new soil surface. After aerial stems became covered by drift sand, the wood lost its characteristic ring-porous features, and tree rings became strongly reduced in width with less distinct ring boundaries. Buried stems that became exposed after erosion showed an abrupt increase in ring width and turned distinctly ring porous again. Roots that were exposed also adopted clear ring-porous features, increased in ring width and anatomically resembled aerial stem wood.
Using tree-ring analysis, it is possible to precisely date sand deposition and erosion events by detecting the concurrent changes in anatomy of woody structures. This study indicates the high potential of dendrogeomorphology as a tool to study drift-sand dynamics with a high temporal, i.e. annual, resolution for a period going back as long as the maximum age of the trees present (in this study at least 250 years). Since the signals of past deposition and erosion events are conserved in the wood, this is the only method that can be used to reconstruct drift-sand dynamics when the actual landforms are no longer present.