Stable oxygen isotopes in Irish oaks: potential for reconstructing local and regional climate.

Hazel Vallack, Neil Loader, Giles Young, Danny McCarroll, David Brown


The long Irish oak tree-ring chronology, developed for archaeological dating and radiocarbon calibration, is the longest of any in northwest maritime Europe, spanning most of the Holocene (7,272 years). Unfortunately, the rings’ widths do not carry a strong climate signal and the record has yet to be satisfactorily applied for dendroclimatic reconstruction. This pilot study explores the potential for extracting a climate signal from Irish oaks by comparing the stable oxygen isotopes ratios from ten oak tree cores (Quercus robur and Quercus petraea L.) collected across the Armagh region of NE Ireland with local and regional climatic and stable isotopic data. Statistically significant correlations between isotope ratios and the amount of summer precipitation (r = -0.44) point to the isotopic composition of summer rainfall as the dominant signal. Including the Armagh data into an extended regional oxygen isotope series did not reduce the correlation coefficient with regional precipitation (r = -0.68, p < 0.01). Correlations of this magnitude in dendro-hydroclimatology are typically restricted to trees growing at their ecological limits. This research suggests that there is considerable potential for including living trees and ancient timbers from Ireland into a regional composite to reconstruct the summer hydroclimate of Britain and Ireland.

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