Carbon-13 in tree-ring cellulose as an indicator of past climates

Article metrics

Abstract

Following Urey's suggestion1 that the 13C abundance (usually expressed as a relative ratio: 13C/12C or δ13C) fixed in plant carbon may be temperature dependent, several authors have investigated the relationship between δ13C and climate. These workers searched for a coefficient relating δ13C variations to temperature variations2–7. The results, obtained on field collected samples, failed to yield agreement about the extent of a climatic effect or even its existence. Growth chamber experiments, performed on different plant species in controlled conditions to eliminate environmental factors other than temperature, showed no clear relationship between δ13C and temperature8,9. These various contradictory results suggest that factors other than temperature contribute to determining δ13C in plants. We now present evidence that the variations of the relative abundance of stable isotopes of carbon in tree rings indicate past climate changes. Thus carbon isotope composition appears to be a proxy indicator that may help to extend the meteorological data base into pre-instrument times.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Urey, H. C. J. chem. Soc. 562–581 (1947).

  2. 2

    Craig, H. Science 119, 141–143 (1954).

  3. 3

    Smith, B. N. & Epstein, S. Pl. Physiol. 47, 380–384 (1970).

  4. 4

    Lerman, J. C. Coll. Int. CNRS 219, 163–181 (1974).

  5. 5

    Libby, L. M. et al. Nature 261, 284–288 (1976).

  6. 6

    Pearman, G. I., Francey, R. J. & Fraser, P. J. B. Nature 260, 771–773 (1976).

  7. 7

    Wilson, A. T. & Grinsted, M. J. Nature 265, 133–135 (1977).

  8. 8

    Troughton, J. Yb. Carnegie Inst. Wash. 73, 780–783 (1974).

  9. 9

    Smith, B. N., Oliver, J. & McMillan, C. Bot. Gaz. 137, 99–104 (1976).

  10. 10

    Dean, J. S. & Robinson, W. J. Expanded Tree-Ring Chronologies for the Southwestern United States, 39 (Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, 1978).

  11. 11

    Robinson, W. J., Harrill, B. G. & Warren, R. Tree-Ring Dates from New Mexico, B 16–24 (Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, 1974).

  12. 12

    Bannister, B. in Science in Archaeology (eds Brothwell, D. & Higgs, E.) 191–205 (Thames and Hudson, London, 1969).

  13. 13

    Stokes, M. A. & Smiley, T. A. An Introduction to Tree-Ring Dating (University of Chicago, 1968).

  14. 14

    Fritts, H. C. Tree Rings and Climate (Academic, London, 1976).

  15. 15

    Fritts, H. C. Ecol. Monogr. 44, 411–440 (1974).

  16. 16

    LaMarche, V. C. Jr Science 183, 1043–1048 (1975).

  17. 17

    Fritts, H. C., Lofgren, R. G. & Gordon, G. A. Quat. Res. 12, 18–46 (1979).

  18. 18

    Browning, B. L. Methods of Wood Chemistry (Interstate, New York, 1967).

  19. 19

    Freyer, H. D. & Wiesberg, L. in Isotope Ratios as Pollutant Source and Behavior Indicators, 49–62 (IAEA, Vienna, 1975).

  20. 20

    Tans, P. P. thesis, Univ. Gröningen (1978).

  21. 21

    Wigley, T. M. L., Gray, B. M. & Kelly, P. M. Nature 271, 92–93 (1978).

  22. 22

    Lerman, J. C. & Long, A. in Short Papers of the Fourth Int. Conf. Geochron. Cosmochron., Isotope Geol. (ed Zartman, R. E.) 248–250 (USGS, 1978); in Int. Meeting on Stable Isotopes in Tree-Ring Research, Proc., New Paltz, New York, 22–25 May 1979 (in the press).

  23. 23

    Keeling, C. S. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 23, 322–334 (1960); 24, 277–298 (1961).

  24. 24

    Lerman, J. C. in Environmental and Biological Control of Photosynthesis (ed. Marcelle, R.) 323–335 (Jung, The Hague, 1975).

  25. 25

    Lerman, J. C. & Raynal, C.r. hebd. Séanc. Acad. Sci., Paris Ser. D 215, 1391–1394 (1974).

  26. 26

    Arnold, L. D. thesis, Univ. Arizona (1979).

  27. 27

    Preston, R. J. Jr Rocky Mountain Trees, 1963 (Dover, New York, 1948).

  28. 28

    Mazany, T. in Short Papers of the Fourth Int. Conf. Geochron. Cosmochron., Isotope Geol. (ed. Zartman, R. E.) 280–282 (US Geological Society, 1978).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mazany, T., Lerman, J. & Long, A. Carbon-13 in tree-ring cellulose as an indicator of past climates. Nature 287, 432–435 (1980) doi:10.1038/287432a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.