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Dendrochronological evaluation of the El Niño effect in East-Africa

Kristof HANECA student laureate

°1976 Belgium
Bio-engineer in land and forest management, Universiteit Gent, Belgium, 1999

Dendrochronologische evaluatie van het El Niño-effect te Oost-Afrika

Trees, forests and wood are important for the functioning of the society. This is very obvious in non-industrialised countries.
In equatorial East-Africa survival of man depends on the Miombo woodland, a special type of open forest.
Trees are not only useful, they bear as well an enormous scientific value. They store environmental information during their complete life span in their wood. The growth ring pattern for instance is very interesting because in certain circumstances it makes decoding of meteorological data possible, without modern equipment.
Kristof Haneca intensively analysed Brachystegia spiciformis, a Miombo tree from the botanical family of Leguminosae. Some trees have been studied anatomically. He succeeded in distinguishing between different varieties by wood anatomical features.
He also checked whether the growth ring patterns bears information on the environment and especially the El Niño effect. Only a weak climate signal could be detected in the growth ring pattern of Brachystegia with advanced numerical techniques. In Isoberlinia tomentosa, also a Miombo tree from the same family, this signal appeared to be much stronger.
Kristof Haneca succeeded in producing a pioneering work in the study of the impact of El Niño on the African ecosystems. There is no doubt that the sustainable development of the latter necessitates a good knowledge of the effects of El Niño, which can be favourable, but sometimes also disastrous for the productivity of the forests, of crops and of fisheries.