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Linking stable isotopes in tree rings and foliage with environmental data to study forest ecosystem changes


This project aimed to build a detailed investigation of the influence of environmental factors on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotopes in tree-rings and foliage in beech and spruce, covering the soil moisture and nutrient availability gradients of the low-elevated central-European range.


This project was started under the lead of Dr. Pascal Weber and carried out in the frame of his PhD by Greg Tomlinson (PhD Referees: Prof. N. Buchmann, Dr. R. Siegwolf, et al.).


Evaluating past and anticipated changes in the functioning of forest ecosystems requires a profound knowledge of the influence of anthropogenic N-deposition on temperate forests and its interaction with climatic change impacts. However, our knowledge is still limited, since scientific methods are required that are appropriate to disentangle pollution effects from other anthropogenic impacts, such as land-use and climatic changes. As far as we know, stable isotopes in tree-rings have never been directly related to long-term monitoring data of wet N-deposition, although this seems to be an innovative approach.

The following research questions were addressed in this project: 1) Is the variation in the C and N isotopic signatures corresponding and reflecting the same environmental signals in foliage and tree-rings? 2) To what degrees are C and N stable isotopes reflecting environmental factors such as soil moisture, nutrient availability and N-deposition? 3) Can stable isotopes in tree-rings be used to reconstruct anthropogenic N-deposition?

The project was part of the COST Aktion SIBAE.