Leaf Wax Hydrogen Isotopes as a Hydroclimate Proxy in the Tropical Pacific

S. Nemiah Ladd, Ashley E. Maloney, Daniel B. Nelson, Matthew Prebble, Giorgia Camperio, David A. Sear, Jonathan D. Hassall, Peter G. Langdon, Julian Sachs, Nathalie Dubois

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Hydrogen isotope ratios of sedimentary leaf waxes (delta^2 H_Wax values) are increasingly used to reconstruct past hydroclimate. Here, we add delta^2 H_Wax values from 19 lakes and four swamps on 15 tropical Pacific islands to an updated global compilation of published data from surface sediments and soils. Globally, there is a strong positive linear correlation between delta^2 H values of mean annual precipitation (delta^2 H_P values) and the leaf waxes n‐C_29 ‐alkane (R^2 = 0.74, n = 665) and n‐C_28 ‐acid (R^2 = 0.74, n = 242). Tropical Pacific delta^2 H_Wax values fall within the predicted range of values based on the global calibration, and the largest residuals from the global regression line are no greater than those observed elsewhere, despite large uncertainties in delta^2 H_P values at some Pacific sites. However, tropical Pacific delta^2 H_Wax values in isolation are not correlated with estimated delta^2 H_P values from isoscapes or from isotope‐enabled general circulation models. Palynological analyses from these same Pacific sediment samples suggest no systematic relationship between any particular type of pollen distribution and deviations from the global calibration line. Rather, the poor correlations observed in the tropical Pacific are likely a function of the small range of delta^2 H_P values relative to the typical residuals around the global calibration line. Our results suggest that delta^2 H_Wax values are currently most suitable for use in detecting large changes in precipitation in the tropical Pacific and elsewhere, but that ample room for improving this threshold exits in both improved understanding of delta^2 H variability in plants, as well as in precipitation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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