EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Stable Isotopes in Tree Rings: Inferring Physiological, Climatic and Environmental Responses

Rolf Siegwolf1,2, Renée Brooks3, John Roden4, and Matthias Saurer2
Rolf Siegwolf et al.
  • 1Paul Scherrer Institut, Lab of Atmospheric Chemistry, Villigen, Switzerland (
  • 2Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3Research Plant Physiologist, Western Ecology Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon, USA
  • 4Southern Oregon University, Oregon, USA

We are editing a new book in the Springer Tree Physiology Series entitled “Stable Isotopes in Tree Rings: Inferring Physiological, Climatic and Environmental Responses” due out in 2020. Because trees produce annual growth increments that can be precisely dated, annual and interannual variations in tree ring width and stable carbon, oxygen and hydrogen isotopes provide detailed records of past physiological responses to biotic and abiotic impacts over many decades and centuries. In contrast to non-living chronologies (ice cores, stalagmites etc.), trees modify base physical inputs in response to local microclimates through their physiological response to light, temperature, humidity, water availability, CO2 and nutrients. Although this can make interpretation of isotopic variation in organic matter more complicated, it also means that these proxies can provide a wealth of additional information. Thus, an understanding of the combined physical and biological drivers of isotope fractionation in tree rings is crucial for paleoclimate interpretation. In addition, tree rings and stable isotopes contained therein integrate dynamic environmental, phenological and developmental variation that can be used to study present organism function and recent anthropogenic influences apart from their use as proxies for conditions in the distant past. The last few decades have seen tremendous progress in understanding the mechanisms by which tree physiology modifies stable isotope fractionation in organic matter.

This book will be the first to comprehensively cover the field of tree ring stable isotopes. This volume highlights how tree ring stable isotopes have been used to address a range of environmental issues from paleoclimatology to forest management, and anthropogenic impacts on forest growth. It evaluates strengths and weaknesses of isotope applications in tree rings. This book focuses on physiological mechanisms that influence isotopic signals and reflect environmental impacts. Each of the 25 chapters has been authored by leading experts providing the most recent developments in the area.

How to cite: Siegwolf, R., Brooks, R., Roden, J., and Saurer, M.: Stable Isotopes in Tree Rings: Inferring Physiological, Climatic and Environmental Responses, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-3680,, 2020


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