Isotope Dendroclimatology: A Review with a Special Emphasis on Tropics

  • S. R. ManagaveEmail author
  • R. Ramesh
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


Isotope dendroclimatological investigations have yielded crucial high-resolution climatic data spanning the past few centuries. The success of using stable isotope ratios of oxygen (δ18O) and hydrogen (δD) of tree cellulose for reconstructing past climate depends to a large extent upon the strength of the correlation between δ18O (and δD) of rainfall and the amount of precipitation (in the tropics) or ambient temperature (mid to high latitudes). The usefulness of carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) on the other hand, depends upon the extent to which stomatal conductance is influenced by relative humidity and soil moisture, and the dependence of photosynthetic rate on light intensity. Temperature indirectly affects the δ13C values of tree cellulose through its association with relative humidity and/or irradiance. These conditions put geographical constraints on suitable locations for isotope dendroclimatological investigations.

The composition of tree cellulose is affected by various isotopic fractionation processes occurring during and post photosynthesis. A reasonable mechanistic understanding of the former has been achieved while that of the latter is still inadequate. Improved quantitative understanding of various eco-physiological processes affecting isotopic fractionation and faster cellulose extraction techniques developed recently have made intra-annual isotopic studies increasingly valuable. Intra-molecular isotopic techniques too are being developed for resolving the stem cellulose isotopic ratio into signals associated with the source water (related to temperature/precipitation) and leaf water (relative humidity).

Issues related to temporally and spatially varying correlations between the isotopic composition of precipitation and climatic parameters (e.g. temperature and amount of precipitation) and the influence of post-photosynthetic effects of plant physiological factors on the isotopic composition of tree cellulose need to be resolved for the optimization of past climatic reconstruction using the stable isotopic compositions of tree cellulose.


Isotopic Composition Leaf Water Tree Ring Isotopic Fractionation Past Climate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank M. Baskaran for the invitation to write this review, collaborators H.P. Borgaonkar and A. Bhattacharyya for samples and ISRO-GBP for funding. We are grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for an in-depth review, which helped to improve the presentation.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesPondicherry UniversityPuducherryIndia
  2. 2.Geosciences DivisionPhysical Research LaboratoryAhmedabadIndia

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