The climate of Nepal has changed rapidly over the recent decades, but most instrumental records of weather and hydrology only extend back to the 1980s. Tree rings can provide a longer perspective on recent environmental changes, and since the early 2000s, a new round of field initiatives by international researchers and Nepali scientists have more than doubled the size of the country’s tree-ring network. In this paper, we present a comprehensive analysis of the current tree-ring width network for Nepal, and use this network to estimate changes in forest growth nation-wide during the last four centuries. Ring-width chronologies in Nepal have been developed from 11 tree species, and half of the records span at least 290 years. The Nepal tree-ring width network provides a robust estimate of annual forest growth over roughly the last four centuries, but prior to this point, our mean ring-width composite fluctuates wildly due to low sample replication. Over the last four centuries, two major events are prominent in the all-Nepal composite: (i) a prolonged and widespread growth suppression during the early 1800s; and (ii) heightened growth during the most recent decade. The early 19th century decline in tree growth coincides with two major Indonesian eruptions, and suggests that short-term disturbances related to climate extremes can exert a lasting influence on the vigor of Nepal’s forests. Growth increases since AD 2000 are mainly apparent in high-elevation fir, which may be a consequence of the observed trend towards warmer temperatures, particularly during winter. This synthesis effort should be useful to establish baselines for tree-ring data in Nepal and provide a broader context to evaluate the sensitivity or behavior of this proxy in the central Himalayas.
- tree rings