• The Climatic Response in the Partitioning of the Stable Isotopes of Carbon in Juniper Trees from Arizona

      Arnold, Larry David; Long, Austin; Lerman, Juan Carlos; Wilson, Alex T.; Martin, Paul S.; Steelink, Cornelius (The University of Arizona., 1979)
      Juniper trees (Juniperus osteosperma, J. monosperma, J. deppeana and J. scopulorum) grow under widely varying climatic and edaphic conditions throughout the American southwest. This study is chiefly concerned with a test of the climatic response in the partitioning of the stable isotopes of carbon in such trees. The relationships developed here, for example, might be used to extract paleoclimatic information from ancient juniper samples preserved in cave middens. In order to test for a climatic response in the leaf cellulose δ¹³C values, leaves from a total of 29 trees were sampled in the immediate vicinity of 9 meteorological stations across the state of Arizona. Care was taken to insure that 22 of the trees experienced only the temperature and precipitation values reflected by their site meteorological stations. As a cross-check, 7 trees exposed to temperature and/or precipitation levels clearly deviant from their site averages were also sampled. In general, each tree was sampled at four places, approximately 2 m above the ground. All leaf samples were reduced to cellulose (holocellulose) before combustion and analysis for their δ¹³C value. The δ¹³C value for each site was derived from an average of 2 to 4 trees per site, the value of each tree being the average of its individual samples. The one sigma 13C variation found between trees at any given site is ±0.38‰; within a single tree, ±0.36‰; and for repeat combustions, ±0.20‰. The δ¹³C values of the juniper sites were regressed against the temperature and precipitation of the individual months and running averages of months across the year using polynomial, multiple regression analysis. Temperature and precipitation were entered as separate variables in a general multiple regression model and also as a combined, single variable (T /P) in a more specific approach. The pattern formed by the multiple correlation coefficients, when plotted by months across the year, closely follows the seasonal variations in photosynthetic activity. Cellulose δ¹³C values have minimum correlation with temperature and precipitation (considered jointly) during summer months and maximum correlation during spring months. For an individual month, the temperature and precipitation (jointly) of April correlated at the highest level with a multiple adj. R = 0.994 and an F = 166; for a maximum seasonal response, March-May reached a multiple adj. R = 0.985, F = 66. The results using the combined, single variable (T /P) were nearly equivalent for the same months: April's adj. R = 0.957, F = 45; March-May's adj. R = 0.985 with an F = 132. The ability of T and P as independent predictors is considerably less than their ability in combination; e.g., 13C g(T) for March-May has an adj. R = 0.80 and 6 13C = h(P) has an adj. R = -0.67 compared to their in- concert adj. R value of 0.985. The results of this study, therefore, strongly support a high degree of climatic sensitivity in the partitioning of the stable isotopes of carbon in juniper leaf cellulose: the correlation coefficients and their F statistics are sufficiently high to consider temperature and precipitation (acting jointly) as accurate predictors of cellulose δ¹³C values in the system studied.
    • Fire Frequency, Nutrient Concentrations and Distributions, and δ13C of Soil Organic Matter and Plants in Southeastern Arizona Grassland

      Biggs, Thomas; Quade, Jay; Webb, Robert H.; Bull, William B.; Hendricks, David M.; Long, Austin; Biggs, Thomas (The University of Arizona., 1997)
      Over the past century, woody plants and shrubs have increased in abundance at the expense of grasslands in many semiarid regions. The availability and concentrations of nutrients influence the relative success of plants, but the effects of fire frequency on soil nutrients is unknown for semiarid grasslands. On the gunnery ranges of Fort Huachuca in southeastern Arizona, study sites were established to examine the effects of fire frequency on soil biogeochemistry, plant biochemistry, and δ¹³C values in soil organic matter (SOM). The sites were on homogeneous granitic alluvium where wildfire frequency history is known from 1973 to present and no cattle grazing has occurred in recent decades. Subplots represent fire frequencies of no burns, 3 fires per decade, and 5 fires per decade. The "no burn" plot has abundant C₃ Prosopis veleruina (mesquite) trees, whereas the burned plots are open C₄-dominated grasslands with scattered mesquite trees. Prosopis trees have altered SOM pools by the concentration of plant nutrients and the addition of isotopically light shrub litter. Frequent fires have altered the basic geochemistry and nutrient availabilities of the soil, and the changes appear to be significant enough to affect plant growth. Soil pH increases with burning frequency, and TOC, total nitrogen, and plant -available phosphorus show significant increases on the infrequently burned plot. Burning is advantageous for preservation or restoration of grasslands, as total living grass biomass is greater on the two burned plots. Root biomass is significantly lower on the "frequently burned" plot. Concentrations of the key nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are reduced in plants on the burned sites compared to plants on the unburned site. Fires help re-distribute nutrients but evidence of nutrient concentrations and δ¹³C values are retained in SOM for many decades. Estimates of bulk carbon turnover rates range from 112 to 504 years. Evidence for modern C₃ shrub expansion is found in the shift of SOM δ¹³C values from values characteristic of C₄ grasses to C₃ shrubs in surface soil layers. δ¹³C(SOM) values indicate that the Holocene and Late Pleistocene were dominated by C₄ grasslands, and the pre-Late Pleistocene vegetation was a C₄-grass savanna with abundant C₃ plants.