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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (3): 413-422    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0062-1
Research article     
Tree ring based drought variability in Northwest Tajikistan since 1895 AD
YANG Meilin1, YU Yang1,*(), ZHANG Haiyan1, WANG Qian1, GAN Miao1, YU Ruide1,2
1 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2 School of Environment and Material Science, Yantai University, Yantai 264005, China
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Determining the mechanisms controlling the changes of wet and dry conditions will improve our understanding of climate change over the past hundred years, which is of great significance to the study of climate and environmental changes in the arid regions of Central Asia. Forest trees are ecologically significant in the local environment, and therefore the tree ring analysis can provide a clear record of regional historical climate. This study analyzed the correlation between the tree ring width chronology of Juniperus turkestanica Komarov and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) in Northwest Tajikistan, based on 56 tree ring samples collected from Shahristan in the Pamir region. Climate data including precipitation, temperature and the SPEI were downloaded from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) TS 4.00. The COFECHA program was used for cross-dating, and the ARSTAN program was used to remove the growth trend of the tree itself and the influence of non-climatic factors on the growth of the trees. A significant correlation was found between the radial growth of J. turkestanica trees and the monthly mean SPEI of February-April. The monthly mean SPEI sequence of February-April during the period of 1895-2016 was reconstructed, and the reconstruction equation explained 42.5% of the variance. During the past 122 a (1895-2016), the study area has experienced three wetter periods (precipitation above average): 1901-1919, 1945-1983 and 1995-2010, and four drier periods (precipitation below average): 1895-1900, 1920-1944, 1984-1994 and 2011-2016. The spatial correlation analysis revealed that the monthly mean SPEI reconstruction sequence of February-April could be used to characterize the large-scale dry-wet variations in Northwest Tajikistan during the period of 1895-2016. This study could provide comparative data for validating the projections of climate models and scientific basis for managing water resources in Tajikistan in the context of climate change.

Key wordstree ring width      chronology      standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI)      drought      Juniperus turkestanica      Pamir region     
Received: 27 February 2019      Published: 10 May 2020
Corresponding Authors: Yang YU     E-mail:
About author: *Corresponding author: YU Yang (E-mail:
Cite this article:

YANG Meilin, YU Yang, ZHANG Haiyan, WANG Qian, GAN Miao, YU Ruide. Tree ring based drought variability in Northwest Tajikistan since 1895 AD. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 413-422.

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Fig. 1 Standardized tree ring width chronology and the amount of tree ring samples (i.e., sample depth)
Statistic Standardized tree ring width chronology
Number of sampled trees 28
Number of tree cores 56
Chronology period 1701-2016 (316 a)
R 0.373
AGR 2.180
MS 0.263
SD 0.291
AC1 0.498
SNR 5.946
VFE 0.425
EPS 0.856
Year with EPS>0.850 1895
Table 1 Statistical characteristics of the standardized tree ring width chronology
Fig. 2 Correlation coefficients between the tree ring width chronology of J. turkestanica and monthly climate data during the period of 1930-2016. SPEI, standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index. For the x-axis, p6-p12 denote June to December of the previous year, respectively; and 1-9 denote January to September of the current year, respectively. The dotted lines denote 99% and 95% significance levels.
r r2 SD RE/CE t ST F
0.425 0.181 49.12 0.15/0.15 3.73 57+/29- 16.31
Table 2 Statistical characteristics of a leave-one-out test
Fig. 3 Comparison of the downloaded and reconstructed monthly mean SPEI of February-April mean SPEI for the period of 1930-2016
Fig. 4 Reconstructed monthly mean SPEI of February-April and the 11-a moving average for the period of 1895-2016
Dry period Number of years (a) Anomaly Wet period Number of years (a) Anomaly
1895-1900 6 0.09 1901-1919 19 0.52
1920-1944 25 0.24 1945-1983 39 0.11
1984-1994 11 0.08 1995-2010 16 0.18
2011-2016 6 0.20
Table 3 Wet-dry periods based on the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) values for the period of 1985-2016
Fig. 5 Spatial correlation fields of (a) reconstructed monthly mean SPEI of February-April and (b) downloaded monthly mean SPEI of February-April from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) TS 4.00 in Northwest Tajikistan for the period of 1930-2016
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