Stem radius changes do not show a moon signal

Publication in Scientific Reports

by Tumajer et al, with TreeNet contribution

Dendrometers challenge the ‘moon wood concept’ by elucidating the absence of lunar cycles in tree stem radius oscillation

Wood is a sustainable natural resource and an important global commodity. According to the ‘moon wood theory’, the properties of wood, including its growth and water content, are believed to oscillate with the lunar cycle. Despite contradicting our current understanding of plant functioning, this theory is commonly exploited for marketing wooden products. To examine the moon wood theory, we applied a wavelet power transformation to series of 2,000,000 hourly stem radius records from dendrometers. We separated the influence of 74 consecutive lunar cycles and meteorological conditions on the stem variation of 62 trees and six species. We show that the dynamics of stem radius consist of overlapping oscillations with periods of 1 day, 6 months, and 1 year. These oscillations in stem dimensions were tightly coupled to oscillations in the series of air temperature and vapour pressure deficit. By contrast, we revealed no imprint of the lunar cycle on the stem radius variation of any species. We call for scepticism towards the moon wood theory, at least as far as the stem water content and radial growth are concerned. We foresee that similar studies employing robust scientific approaches will be increasingly needed in the future to cope with misleading concepts.

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