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Cicada Data - "Lord of the Tree Rings"

Cartoon of cicada waking up
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Cicada Data - "Lord of the Tree Rings"

Credit: National Science Foundation

Audio Transcript:

And now a bit of Cicada Data...from the National Science Foundation.

Announcer: Indiana State University researcher James Speer is a dendochronologist--he uses tree trunk rings to study environmental trees' growth patterns, and how they're affected by precipitation...temperature...even (you guessed it)...cicadas.

Speer: Because the trees are recording everything that happens to them, we can study these effects specifically on the trees.

Announcer: We tend to think of cicadas "doing their number" on trees by depositing eggs in branches. But the damage that causes, says Speer, is...just scratching the surface.

Speer: The majority of the lifecycle of the insect is underground. And during that time they're a root parasite, so they're feeding off the trees.

Announcer: Speer's tree ring studies tell the tale.

Speer: You can actually see a decrease in growth in the tree. This is as the nymphs are maturing in the soil.

Announcer: Speers says in the year the cicadas emerge and leave the roots alone, the trees actually get a break! His conclusion?

Speer: There's less of a damage on the trees the year that we see them--the year that they are most obvious.

Announcer: For Cicada Data, I'm Emilie de Azavedo.

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