A Dual Stable Isotope Approach Unravels Common Climate Signals and Species-Specific Responses to Environmental Change Stored in Multi-Century Tree-Ring Series from the Tibetan Plateau
Tree-rings are recorders of environmental signals and are therefore often used to reconstruct past environmental conditions. In this paper, we present four annually resolved, multi-centennial tree-ring isotope series from the southeastern Tibetan plateau. The investigation site, where juniper and spruce trees jointly occur, is one of the highest known tree-stands in the world. Tree ring cellulose oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13C) isotopes were analyzed for a common period of 1685–2007 AD to investigate climate–isotope relationships. Therefore, various climate parameters from a local meteorological station and from the CRU 4.02 dataset were used. Tree-ring δ18O of both species revealed highly significant sensitivities with a high degree of coherence to hydroclimate variables during the growing season. The obtained δ18O–climate relationships can even be retained using a species mean. In contrast, the individual δ13C series indicated a weaker and non-uniform response to the tested variables. Underlying species-specific responses and adaptations to the long-term trend in atmospheric CO2 bias even after a trend correction identified dominant environmental factors triggering the tree-ring δ13C at our site. However, analysis of individual intrinsic water-use efficiency in juniper and spruce trees indicated a species-specific adaptation strategy to climate change.