Tree-ring analysis is a basic technique of paramount importance in forest management, yet it may prove difficult and time-consuming for many slow-growth hardwood tree species. Moreover, it requires the use of specialized tools and proprietary software, which may hinder researchers working with limited budgets. We describe an innovative and inexpensive method using DIVA-GIS freeware software to analyze true color high-resolution scanned images of cores previously enhanced with ImageJ freeware (GIS-SDI), and test its accuracy against the widely-used LINTAB-TSAPWin™ and WinDENDRO™ methods. For this purpose, Abies pinsapo and Pyrus bourgaeana increment cores were processed independently using each of the three methods and the results were statistically compared. Dating results were consistent across all three methods, although identifying rings was easier and quicker to perform on the digital images. Using a modern but affordable flatbed scanner to digitize tree cores and the free DIVA-GIS software to analyze the scanned digital images proved to be an inexpensive but highly accurate and efficient approach to tree-ring analysis. Furthermore, this method greatly facilitates tree-ring analysis in species with inconspicuous rings, and enables a complete digital record of every core analyzed to be stored.
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Vol. 71 • No. 2