NAIROBI, Kenya (30 April 2014)-----The AfriCAN Climate consortium has named Dr. Aster Gebrekirstos, a Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) as co-winner of the AfriCAN Climate Awards 2014.
The Award celebrates outstanding contribution by African women researchers in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The AfriCAN editorial committee jointly conferred the award on Gebrekirstos and Dr. Debra Cynthia Roberts of the eThekwini Municipality, Durban South Africa
Gebrekirstos specializes in dendrochronology, which is a scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns formed by trees growth rings. It can provide accurate dating because, in principal, each ring represents a year in a trees life. The information is applied in agroforestry and climate change research.
"Research has shown that the study of tree rings can provide accurate information that can be used to develop accurate predictions of future climate at a local and regional scale, the relationship between water and plants and to measure carbon emissions" Gebrekirstos said in her acceptance speech titled trees as historians.
"Tree rings are history books and they can tell us many things about past climates, tree growth and vegetation dynamics, history of people and their landscapes, and the rise and fall of civilization, among many others"
For example, her work using tree rings has shown that occurrence of drought in East Africa has shortened from every 2 to 8 years to every 2 to 3 years over the last 70 years.
Addressing the award ceremony, Professor Mary Scholes from the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand said "it is not often that one finds successful scientists returning to their roots to recognize where they came from but Aster did this- she went back to the College that awarded her a diploma in Forestry at the Wondo-Genet college of Forestry in Ethiopia and set up a sophisticated laboratory at the College".
Gebrekirstos believes that there is need to develop dendrochronology science in Africa, which will require collaborative efforts and including dendrochronology in the curriculum of African universities. This might help to advance the wider use of dendrochronology.