Variation in δ15N of fog-dependent Tillandsia ecosystems reflect water availability across climate gradients in the hyperarid Atacama Desert

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Title:Main Title: Variation in δ15N of fog-dependent Tillandsia ecosystems reflect water availability across climate gradients in the hyperarid Atacama Desert
Description:Abstract: The Atacama Desert is considered one of the driest places on Earth, where the availability of water plays a crucial role in determining the presence of plants. The sparse vegetation is limited to the coastal mountains, where abundant fog provides the main source of water and nutrients for unique Tillandsia landbeckii ecosystems. The apparent retreat of this fog-dependent vegetation over the past decades, however, may relate to changing climatic conditions, in particular increasing aridity. In this study, we used the nitrogen isotopic composition (δ15N) of plant organic matter as a measure of water availability and atmospheric nitrogen input in present and past Tillandsia dune fields. We compiled an extensive data set on δ15N values of living plants and corresponding site factors (latitude, elevation, cloud cover and precipitation) along a coastal transect. We present radiocarbon-based ages of relict T. landbeckii layers preserved in sand dunes that evolved episodically over the past 2500 years. Site-averaged δ15N values range from +2 ‰ to -16 ‰, with variations of up to 4 ‰ observed within one site that can be related to changes in elevation. The spread in δ15N values is surprising and considerably larger than previously reported for T. landbeckii. In contrast, δ15N values of Huidobria fruticosa and Ophryosporus spp. leaves collected mostly below and above the fog zone vary between +4 ‰ and +17 ‰, largely in agreement with global observations from water-limited systems. Comparison with satellite-based meteorological data and modelling results revealed significant correlations between δ15N values of T. landbeckii and total cloud cover (r = -0.90; p < 0.01), cloud height (r = -0.93; p < 0.001) and precipitation (r = -0.98; p < 0.001) along the investigated transect. The gradient in δ15N values further coincides with surface ocean nutrient concentrations in austral summer when ocean primary production is highest suggesting a potential marine source for the large spread in δ15N values. Reconstruction of past changes in fog water supply based on fossil T. landbeckii remains indicate a distinct dry episode that is consistent with a known period of extreme long-lasting droughts during late Medieval times.
Citation Advice:Jaeschke, Andrea; Böhm, Christoph; Merklinger; Felix, Bernasconi, Stefano; Reyers, Mark, Kusch, Stephanie, Rethemeyer, Janet (2019): Variation in δ15N of fog-dependent Tillandsia ecosystems reflect water availability across climate gradients in the hyperarid Atacama Desert. Global and Planetary Change, 183, 103029. DOI:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103029
Responsible Party
Creators:Andrea Jaeschke (Author), Christoph Böhm (Author), Felix F. Merklinger (Author), Mark Reyers (Author), Stephanie Kusch (Author), Janet Rethemeyer (Author), Stefano Bernasconi (Author)
Contributor:ETH Zurich (Geological Institute) (Hosting Institution)
Funding Reference:Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG): CRC 1211: Earth - Evolution at the Dry Limit
Publisher:Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication Year:2019
CRC1211 Topic:Climate
Related Subproject:D4
Subjects:Keywords: Organic Geochemistry, Radiocarbon Dating, Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Paleoclimate Proxies
Geogr. Information Topic:Biota
File Details
Data Type:Text - Article
File Size:3.9 MB
Date:Accepted: 05.09.2019
Mime Type:application/pdf
Data Format:PDF
Download Permission:Only Project Members
General Access and Use Conditions:According to the CRC1211DB data policy agreement.
Access Limitations:According to the CRC1211DB data policy agreement.
Specific Information - Publication
Publication Status:In Print
Review Status:Peer reviewed
Publication Type:Article
Article Type:Journal
Source:Global and Planetary Change
Number of Pages:12 (1 - 12)
Metadata Details
Metadata Creator:Andrea Jaeschke
Metadata Created:06.11.2019
Metadata Last Updated:06.11.2019
Funding Phase:1
Metadata Language:English
Metadata Version:V50
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