The University of Arizona

δ13Cp Values from Radiocarbon-Dated Plant Matter as an Important but Underexploited Resource for Terrestrial Paleoclimate Analysis and Archaeology

Brandon L Drake

Abstract


Variation in stable carbon isotope ratios in C3 plants can be influenced by climatic and environmental factors. For archaeologists, who regularly collect the measured values of these data as a part of the radiocarbon date reporting process, there is promise in using these data to create a local record of paleoclimatic change relevant to their study areas. Plant δ13C can be expressed as Δ13C values (carbon isotopic discrimination) that can be used in modern experimental studies for stronger paleoclimatic/paleoenvironmental interpretations. As values of Δ13C vary in different species, taxonomic information is necessary for interpretation. In the present study, a record of Irish oak δ13C data are used to construct a local climate history for Ireland. Wetter periods in Ireland inferred from δ13C data correspond to warmer Northern Hemisphere temperatures, in agreement with climate models. Values of δ13C from other species are used to illustrate the importance of using data from taxa with known relationships between climate and stable carbon isotope fractionation.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16153


Keywords


Paleoclimate, Stable Carbon Isotope Ratio, Archaeology

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