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Bone as a stable isotope archive for local climatic information.

Hedges, R. E. M. and Richards, M. P. and Stevens, R. (2004) 'Bone as a stable isotope archive for local climatic information.', Quaternary science reviews., 23 (7-8). pp. 959-965.


This brief review outlines the contribution that the study of stable isotope composition in bone can make to palaeoclimatic investigation, with the focus almost entirely restricted to the last 50,000 years in NW Europe. Bone can provide a useful archive of the prevailing isotopic condition, and represents a quite different, and often less specialised, sampling of the environment than most other archives. On the other hand, chronological sequences—and dating generally—can be a problem, and the link between the isotopic value registered in the bone, and the environmental conditions which gave rise to it, is both complex and not fully understood. Carbon, oxygen and nitrogen isotopes are all available from bone (nitrogen only where sufficient protein (collagen) survives), and are all subject, in different ways, to climatic influences such as temperature, rainfall, changes in floristic composition, and soil chemistry. These are all briefly discussed, and the datasets that are being published are considered in the context of the environmental information they provide. Undoubtedly environmental signals are recoverable, but their interpretation is still primitive. A dataset for carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of herbivores that spans the last 50,000 years is shown together with some of the issues it raises.

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Record Created:20 Jul 2009 14:35
Last Modified:12 Aug 2010 16:35

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