Tuesday, July 8, 2014

University of Turin Dendrochronology Lab

The Dendrochronology Laboratory at the University of Turin is part of the Department of Agronomy, Silviculture and Land Management. This is a satellite campus that is located on the outskirts of Turin. They focus on dendroecology and forest management in anthropogenically altered landscapes. They also have a specialty area in fire ecology and use wood anatomy in many of their studies.  

From left to right Johann Housset, Renzo Motta, Cecile Leroy, Davide Ascoli, and Jose Vaquez
(Giorgio Vacchiano joined us but is not in the picture).

They have a well-equipped woodshop with a band saw that I envied. They also had a large format sanding table for sanding cores. Their wood archive (called a magazine) was much like many small labs in the US. They had a map case to store cores and boxes of wood on shelves from various past projects. The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research is leading an effort for more standard wood archiving protocols that can ensure the long-term preservation of our wood samples (Creasman 2011). This is a goal that Indiana State University is also working to emulate but it takes a lot of time, space, and effort to achieve good quality archiving of samples. They use the European standard of LINTAB measuring machines and TSAP as the measuring and dating program developed by Rinntech (http://www.rinntech.de/content/view/16/47/lang,english/).

The lab had the standard wall display of charismatic specimens which I was intrigued by, although this is the only collection that I have ever seen that includes the head of a wild boar which apparently was a problem on one of their sampling sites.


This core shows the suppressions from larch budmoth (Zeiraphera diniana) which is a common defoliating insect in Larix trees throughout Europe. It has a very regular eight year cycle that changes strength through time.

Dr. Renzo Motta was my main contact for all of my travels in Northern Italy and was a gracious host.  I got to enjoy one of the best meals that I had during my European travels in Pavia with his family at a small restaurant in the old city. I had contacted Dr. Motta about his mast (tree seeding) data sets back in 2000 during my PhD dissertation. I was happy to hear that he is looking into using this dataset that they collected and that Piovesan had published on masting in beech (Fagus) trees (see the previous post). Dr. Motta has done a lot of work examining ungulate effects on tree growth (Motta 1996). I appreciated his work with coarse woody debris in forests (Motta et al. 2006b) which is something that we have examined in my lab through Ross Alexander’s work on his masters thesis. During our tour of the Western Italian Alps, Renzo pointed out a stand of trees that was left on the landscape because the local villagers knew that it protected them from snow avalanches. He has done some research on protective forests such as this (Motta and Haudemand 2001) and examined other human land use effects (Motta and Nola 2001, Motta et al. 2006b).

Dr. Giovanni Bovio has done some dendrochronological work with Dr. Motta and the others in the lab and has published work on land zoning and fire history (Bovio and Camia 1997) and the effect of sylviculture on forest fires (Bovio 2011).

Dr. Raffaella Marzano focuses on fire ecology in the wildland-urban interface (Marzano et al. 2008) and the establishment of seedlings after forest fires (Marzano et al. 2013). I got to see a poster of some repeat photography that Dr. Marzano took after a fire that showed the growth of herbs and the establishment of seedlings on plots with different forest management techniques. I hoped that we would be able to visit this site in the Western Italian Alps during our field tour, but we did not have the time to get to this site.

Dr. Davide Ascoli specializes in fire ecology and has actually examined fire scars in two angiosperm genera (Populus and Betula, Ascoli and Bovio 2010). During my European travels, I was presenting on three research projects, one of which was the potential of scarring from fire in 15 angiosperms species. So it was exciting to see Dr. Ascoli’s work that examined multiply scarred angiosperms. Much of Dr. Ascoli’s other work includes adaptive management and use of prescribed burning in Italy (Ascoli et al. 2009, Ascoli and Bovio 2013, and Ascoli et al. 2013).

Dr. Giorgio Vacchiano specialized in forest ecology with a main focus on modelling (Vacchiano et al. 2008) and has also conducted some drought stress analysis in Scots pine (Vacchiano et al. 2012). He also has some recent publications simulating forest encroachment (Vacchiano et al. 2014a) and examining the effect of soils on Scots pine recovery after fire (Vacciano et al. 2014b). Dr. Vacchiano was also very helpful in planning my day tour to the Western Italian Alps.

I spent a wonderful evening with Renzo and his colleagues. We ate some true Italian pizza (the best in the world) and were treated to gelato at Groms afterwards that might just be the best gelato in the world. They gave me a great tour of the Turin in the evening where I got to hear about the history of the city and also some personal views of growing up in this city. I was interested in hearing about academic process in Italy. The norm is to progress through all degrees (BS, MS, and PhD) at the same institution and then to teach there when you are done. From my travels I found that in Italy, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic the people are much more connected to their community (and home) and they don’t tend to move nearly as much as the United States norm. Also, all three countries have a limited number of academic institutions where one can get a job which means that professorships are limited within their countries. I forget the specific numbers, but if a PhD researcher wanted to stay in Italy, they could only apply to 5-10 potential institutions for a job compared to the thousands that are available in the US. Germany had many more institutions that one could choose from and had more of a migratory population.

Dr. Renzo Motta (Full Professor, Specialties: Forest Ecology - Silviculture)
Dr. Giovanni Bovio (Full professor, Specialties: Forest Management - Fire Prevention)
Dr. Raffaella Marzano (Assistant Professor, Specialties: Fire Ecology)
Dr. Giorgio Vacchiano (Post Doc, Specialties: Forest Ecology)
Dr. Davide Ascoli (Post Doc Specialties: Fire Ecology - Fire Management - Forestry - Prescribed Burning - Disturbance Ecology)
Johann Housset (PhD Candidate)

Jose Vazquez (PhD Candidate)
Cecil Leroy (Visiting MS student)

Ascoli, D., Beghin, R., Ceccato, R., Gorlier, A., Lombardi, G., Lonati, M., ... & Cavallero, A. (2009). Developing an adaptive management approach to prescribed burning: a long-term heathland conservation experiment in north-west Italy. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 18(6), 727-735.
Ascoli, D., & Bovio, G. (2010). Tree encroachment dynamics in heathlands of north-west Italy: the fire regime hypothesis. iForest-Biogeosciences and Forestry, 3(5), 137.
Ascoli, D., & Bovio, G. (2013). Prescribed burning in Italy: issues, advances and challenges. iForest-Biogeosciences and Forestry, 6(2), 79.
Ascoli, D., Lonati, M., Marzano, R., Bovio, G., Cavallero, A., & Lombardi, G. (2013). Prescribed burning and browsing to control tree encroachment in southern European heathlands. Forest Ecology and Management, 289, 69-77.
Bovio, G., & Camia, A. (1997). Land zoning based on fire history. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 7(3), 249-258.
Bovio, G. (2011). Forest fires and systemic silviculture. Italian Journal of Forest and Mountain Environments, 66(3), 239-243.
Creasman, P. P. (2011). Basic principles and methods of dendrochronological specimen curation. Tree-Ring Research, 67(2), 103-115.
Marzano, R., Camia, A., & Bovio, G. (2008). Wildland-urban interface analyses for fire management planning. In Proceedings of the second international symposium on fire economics, planning, and policy: A global view (pp. 311-318). Albany, CA, USA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service.
Marzano, R., Garbarino, M., Marcolin, E., Pividori, M., & Lingua, E. (2013). Deadwood anisotropic facilitation on seedling establishment after a stand-replacing wildfire in Aosta Valley (NW Italy). Ecological Engineering, 51, 117-122.
Motta, R. (1996). Impact of wild ungulates on forest regeneration and tree composition of mountain forests in the Western Italian Alps. Forest Ecology and Management, 88(1), 93-98.
Motta, R., & Nola, P. (2001). Growth trends and dynamics in subalpine forest stands in the Varaita Valley (Piedmont, Italy) and their relationships with human activities and global change. Journal of Vegetation Science, 12(2), 219-230.
Motta, R., Berretti, R., Lingua, E., & Piussi, P. (2006a). Coarse woody debris, forest structure and regeneration in the Valbona Forest Reserve, Paneveggio, Italian Alps. Forest Ecology and Management, 235(1), 155-163.
Motta, R., & Haudemand, J. C. (2000). Protective forests and silvicultural stability: an example of planning in the aosta valley. Mountain Research and Development, 20(2), 180-187.
Motta, R., Morales, M., & Nola, P. (2006b). Human land-use, forest dynamics and tree growth at the treeline in the Western Italian Alps. Annals of Forest Science, 63(7), 739-747.
Vacchiano, G., Garbarino, M., Mondino, E. B., & Motta, R. (2012). Evidences of drought stress as a predisposing factor to Scots pine decline in Valle d’Aosta (Italy). European Journal of Forest Research, 131(4), 989-1000.
Vacchiano, G., Motta, R., Long, J. N., & Shaw, J. D. (2008). A density management diagram for Scots pine (Pinus sylvestrisv L.): A tool for assessing the forest's protective effect. Forest Ecology and Management, 255(7), 2542-2554.

Vacchiano G., Motta R., Bovio G., Ascoli D. (2014a). Calibrating and Testing the Forest Vegetation Simulator to Simulate Tree Encroachment and Control Measures for Heathland Restoration in Southern Europe. Forest Science,  60:241-252.
Vacchiano G., Stanchi S., Marinari G., Ascoli D., Zanini E., Motta R. (2014b) Fire severity, residuals and soil legacies affect regeneration of Scots pine in the Southern Alps. Science of the Total Environment, 472:778-788.

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