Stable carbon isotope ratios of soil organic matter and their potential use as indicators of palaeoclimate

T. W. Boutton, L. C. Nordt, S. R. Archer, A. J. Midwood, I. Casar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

The δ13C values of soil organic matter record information regarding the relative importance of C3 versus C4 plants in past plant communities. Because the geographical distribution of C4 plants is correlated strongly with temperature, δ13C of soil organic matter has the potential to enhance understanding of climate history. The purpose of the paper was to: (1) demonstrate that δ13C of soil organic matter responds to and records changes in the relative abundances of C3 and C4 plants in situations where plant community histories are well known; then (2) apply this technique to soil organic matter in palaeosols representing the past 15 000 years in order to reconstruct vegetation and climate change during that period. The δ13C values of soil organic matter accurately documented vegetation dynamics at two sites where land use and vegetation history had been quantified previously: a tallgrass prairie and a subtropical woodland. Changes in δ13C values of organic matter in palaeosols from central Texas indicated shifts in the relative abundance of C3 and C4 plants which tracked changes in climate indicated from accounts published previously and based on other climate reconstruction techniques. Results indicate that δ13C of soil organic matter, by reflecting the relative contribution of C3 and C4 species to plant community productivity, can be used to reconstruct vegetation history and can therefore serve as a proxy indicator of past climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Atomic Energy Agency, Proceedings Series
PublisherPubl by IAEA
Pages445-459
Number of pages15
Edition329 pt 7
ISBN (Print)9201032935
StatePublished - Dec 1 1993
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of the International Symposium on Applications of Isotope Techniques in Studying Past and Current Environmental Changes in the Hydrosphere and the Atmosphere - Vienna, Austria
Duration: Apr 19 1993Apr 23 1993

Publication series

NameInternational Atomic Energy Agency, Proceedings Series
Number329 pt 7

Other

OtherProceedings of the International Symposium on Applications of Isotope Techniques in Studying Past and Current Environmental Changes in the Hydrosphere and the Atmosphere
CityVienna, Austria
Period4/19/934/23/93

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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    Boutton, T. W., Nordt, L. C., Archer, S. R., Midwood, A. J., & Casar, I. (1993). Stable carbon isotope ratios of soil organic matter and their potential use as indicators of palaeoclimate. In International Atomic Energy Agency, Proceedings Series (329 pt 7 ed., pp. 445-459). (International Atomic Energy Agency, Proceedings Series; No. 329 pt 7). Publ by IAEA.