Navigation Links
Redwood trees reveal history of West Coast rain, fog, ocean conditions
Date:10/29/2013

Many people use tree ring records to see into the past. But redwoods the iconic trees that are the world's tallest living things have so far proven too erratic in their growth patterns to help with reconstructing historic climate.

A University of Washington researcher has developed a way to use the trees as a window into coastal conditions, using oxygen and carbon atoms in the wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons.

"This is really the first time that climate reconstruction has ever been done with redwoods," said Jim Johnstone, who recently completed a postdoctoral position at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean. He is corresponding author of a study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

While coastal redwoods are not the longest-lived trees on the West Coast, they do contain unique information about their foggy surroundings. "Redwoods are restricted to a very narrow strip along the coastline," Johnstone said. "They're tied to the coastline, and they're sensitive to marine conditions, so they actually may tell you more about what's happening over the ocean than they do about what's happening over land."

The new study used cores from Northern California coastal redwoods to trace climate back 50 years. Weather records from that period prove the method is accurate, suggesting it could be used to track conditions through the thousand or more years of the redwoods' lifetime.

Tree-ring research, or dendrochronology, typically involves a detailed look at a cross-section of a tree trunk. But the rings of a redwood are uneven and don't always fully encircle the tree, making it a poor candidate for anything except detecting historic fires. The new paper uses a painstaking approach that's more like processing ice cores. It uses the molecules captured in the wood to sample the atmosphere of the past.

Most oxygen in Earth's atmosphere has an atomic mass of 16, making it O-16, but a small percentage of oxygen is the heavier O-18 isotope. When seawater evaporates off the ocean to form clouds, some drops fall as rain over the ocean, and more of the heavier O-18 molecules rain out. The remaining drops that fall on land thus have a higher proportion of the lighter O-16 molecules. Fog, on the other hand, forms near shore and blows on land where it drips down through the branches until the trees use it like rainwater. By looking at the proportion of O-16 and O-18 in the wood from each season, the team was able to measure the contribution of fog and rain. They looked at the spring growth, from April to June, as well as the fall growth, from August to October. Researchers also analyzed carbon atoms to measure the total amount of moisture in the air.

"We actually have two indicators that we can use in combination to determine if a particular summer was foggy with a little rain, foggy with a lot of rain, and various combinations of the two," Johnstone said.

Related research by Johnstone shows that the amount of West Coast fog is closely tied to the surface temperature of the ocean, so redwoods may be able to tell us something about the long-term patterns of ocean change, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Understanding of the natural variability cycles could also help to better distinguish natural and human-caused climate change.

"It's possible that the redwoods could give us direct indication of how that's worked over longer periods," Johnstone said. "This is just a piece that contributes to that understanding in a pretty unique place."


'/>"/>

Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Protecting living fossil trees
2. Mesquite trees displacing Southwestern grasslands
3. Chimpanzee ground nests offer new insight into our ancestors descent from the trees
4. Handful of heavyweight trees per acre are forest champs
5. Beetle-fungus disease threatens crops and landscape trees in Southern California
6. The millennium-old olive trees of the Iberian Peninsula are younger than expected
7. Beetle-infested pine trees contribute more to air pollution and haze in forests
8. New report examines effects of trees killed by bark beetles on wildfire
9. Dying trees in Southwest set stage for erosion, water loss in Colorado River
10. Rodent robbers good for tropical trees
11. Have thieving rodents saved tropical trees?
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:11/29/2016)... 2016   Neurotechnology , a provider ... technologies, today released FingerCell 3.0, a software ... that run on low-power, low-memory microcontrollers. FingerCell ... than 128KB of memory, enabling it to ... limited on-board resources, such as: mobile phones, ...
(Date:11/24/2016)... 23, 2016 Cercacor today introduced Ember TM ... trainers non-invasively measure hemoglobin, Oxygen Content, Oxygen ... Respiration Rate in approximately 30 seconds. Smaller than a ... immediate access to key data about their bodies to ... regimen. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to muscles. ...
(Date:11/21/2016)... , Nov. 21, 2016   Neurotechnology , ... recognition technologies, today announced that the MegaMatcher On ... was submitted for the NIST Minutiae Interoperability ... all the mandatory steps of the evaluation protocol. ... a continuing test of fingerprint templates used to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/8/2016)... Eurofins announces the appointment of Sean Murray , National Division ... Mr. Murray will bring valuable expertise to the ... leading international business teams. As the National Division Leader, he will ... status as the global leader in bio-analytical testing services. ... , , ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... December 8, 2016 Oxford Gene ... customisable SureSeq™ NGS panel range with the launch of the ... cost-effective study of variants in familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The panel ... detection on a single small panel and allows customisation by ... includes all exons for LDLR , P ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... ... December 08, 2016 , ... ... World Technology Awards. uBiome is one of just six company finalists in the ... In addition to uBiome, companies nominated as finalists in this year’s awards include ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Dec. 8, 2016  HedgePath Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTCQX: ... develops and plans to commercialize innovative therapeutics for ... common stock were approved for trading on the ... on the OTCQX, effective today, under the ticker ... OTCQX market, companies must meet high financial standards, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: