We assess the potential of increment coring, a common method for measuring tree ages and growth, to contribute to mortality. We used up to 21 years of annual censuses from two cored and two uncored permanent plots in the Sierra Nevada of California, to detect changes in mortality rates 12 years following coring for individuals >5 cm DBH from two coniferous species, Abies concolor (Gordon & Glend.) Lindl. (white fir) and Abies magnifica A. Murr. (red fir). Using a randomized before-after control impact (BACI) design, we found no differences in mortality rates following coring for 825 cored and 525 uncored A. concolor and 104 cored and 66 uncored A. magnifica. These results support the view that collecting tree cores can be considered nondestructive sampling, but we emphasize that our 12-year postcoring records are short compared with the maximum life-span of these trees and that other species in different environments may prove to be more sensitive to coring. ?? 2004 NRC Canada.