, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 291-297

Stable carbon isotopes in tree rings of beech: climatic versus site-related influences

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 Stable carbon isotopes in tree rings are a promising tool in palaeoclimate research, provided attempts are made to disentangle climatic from local effects (e.g. soil properties, competition, light). The 13C/12C variations in cellulose of tree rings of beech (Fagus sylvatica) were determined at several sites in the Swiss Central Plateau covering the last 50 years. We chose sites which differ in moisture conditions and sampled cores from four to six trees per site. The mean 13C/12C series from the different dry sites (distant by up to 40 km) are closely interrelated suggesting a common external cause. Correlation analysis with climate data proved the total precipitation in the months May, June and July to have the strongest effect on the carbon isotopes (r =  – 0.73). This result is in agreement with the commonly used model which relates the isotope discrimination to the water use efficiency. On the other hand, the isotope series of the wet sites are not as well correlated to the climate. At two of the sites (a dry and a humid) tree ring width suddenly increased. We used this effect as a test-case to study the influence of local growth conditions on the climate-isotope relationship.

Received: 17 April 1996 / Accepted: 2 September 1996