International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 59, Issue 11, pp 1567–1575 | Cite as

Shrubs tracing sea surface temperature—Calluna vulgaris on the Faroe Islands

  • Ilka BeilEmail author
  • Allan Buras
  • Martin Hallinger
  • Marko Smiljanić
  • Martin Wilmking
Original Paper


The climate of Central and Northern Europe is highly influenced by the North Atlantic Ocean due to heat transfer from lower latitudes. Detailed knowledge about spatio-temporal variability of sea surface temperature (SST) in that region is thus of high interest for climate and environmental research. Because of the close relations between ocean and coastal climate and the climate sensitivity of plant growth, annual rings of woody plants in coastal regions might be used as a proxy for SST. We show here for the first time the proxy potential of the common and widespread evergreen dwarf shrub Calluna vulgaris (heather), using the Faroe Islands as our case study. Despite its small and irregular ring structure, the species seems suitable for dendroecological investigations. Ring width showed high and significant correlations with summer and winter air temperatures and SST. The C. vulgaris chronology from the Faroe Islands, placed directly within the North Atlantic Current, clearly reflects variations in summer SSTs over an area between Iceland and Scotland. Utilising shrubs like C. vulgaris as easy accessible and annually resolved proxies offers an interesting possibility for reconstruction of the coupled climate-ocean system at high latitudes.


Climate proxy Serial sectioning Dendrochronology Nordic Seas SST Oceanography 



The research leading to these results has received funding from INTERACT (grant agreement no. 262693), under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme. This study is a contribution to the virtual ICLEA institute funded by the Helmholtz association.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilka Beil
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allan Buras
    • 1
  • Martin Hallinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marko Smiljanić
    • 1
  • Martin Wilmking
    • 1
  1. 1.Landscape Ecology and Ecosystem Dynamics, Institute of Botany and Landscape EcologyUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Department of EcologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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