Warfare dendrochronology

Trees witness the deployment of the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway

Claudia Hartl, Scott St. George, Oliver Konter, Lorenz Harr, Denis Scholz, Andreas Kirchhefer, Jan Esper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

War has an immediate and obvious effect on people and communities, but its impacts on local ecology can be more subtle. This paper shows how one military encounter in the Second World War has left a clear legacy in the northern forests of Norway, trackable more than seventy years later. We used annual growth rings of ∼180 pine and ∼30 birch trees as witnesses of the deployment of the German battleship Tirpitz at the Kåfjord. The Tirpitz was the target of several Allied air attacks, but the Kriegsmarine (German navy from 1935 to 1945) used artificial smoke, consisting of chlorosulfonic acid and zinc/hexachloroethane, to hide the ship. These smoke-screen actions throughout 1944 caused pine forests surrounding the Kåfjord to exhibit a strong and unusual growth decline during the following year. Severe defoliation and limited photosynthetic activity likely triggered this decline. The tree damage extended up to 4 km away from the Tirpitz. In the most extreme case, growth was interrupted for nine years. ‘Warfare dendrochronology’ could help to evaluate potential environmental impacts of the Second World War on forest health and composition elsewhere in the European theatre.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100212
JournalAnthropocene
Volume27
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Fingerprint

dendrochronology
smoke
forest health
defoliation
environmental impact
zinc
ecology
damage
acid
air

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic impact
  • Forest disturbance
  • Pollution
  • Second World War
  • Smoke screen
  • Tree ring

Cite this

Warfare dendrochronology : Trees witness the deployment of the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. / Hartl, Claudia; St. George, Scott; Konter, Oliver; Harr, Lorenz; Scholz, Denis; Kirchhefer, Andreas; Esper, Jan.

In: Anthropocene, Vol. 27, 100212, 01.09.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Hartl, Claudia ; St. George, Scott ; Konter, Oliver ; Harr, Lorenz ; Scholz, Denis ; Kirchhefer, Andreas ; Esper, Jan. / Warfare dendrochronology : Trees witness the deployment of the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. In: Anthropocene. 2019 ; Vol. 27.
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