Holocene Changes in Climate and Ecological Gradients across the Alaskan Arctic Assessed with Multiple Organic Geochemical and Paleoecological Techniques

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Jonathan E Nichols, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States and Dorothy M Peteet, Goddard Inst Space Studies, New York, NY, United States
There is a strong climate gradient across the Alaskan Arctic, with important implications for ecology, carbon and nutrient cycling, terrestrial hydrology and permafrost. Hydrogen isotopes of precipitation are important tool for measuring this climate gradient, as it summarizes variability in precipitation, temperature, and other parameters of the ocean-atmosphere system–all important for understanding the rapidly changing climate of the Arctic. We reconstructed D/H ratios of precipitation along with other hydrological and ecological parameters in a series of peatlands throughout the Alaskan Arctic. We reconstruct climate parameters using the hydrogen isotope ratios of leaf wax n-alkanes and paleoecology using distributions of lipid biomarkers and macrofossil identification. By reconstructing D/H ratios at all sites, we are able to compare disparate environments to robustly establish changing precipitation isotope gradients over the Holocene and in the Late Glacial. We investigated four sites in a southeast–northwest transect of the Alaskan arctic, each with stratigraphies covering the Holocene, and two extending into the Late Glacial. We used data from this transect to identify temporal changes in the gradient of precipitation D/H ratios. We also assessed the impact of these changes in the context of Arctic peatland and permafrost carbon accumulation, as these impacts are key to our understanding of the interactions and feedbacks of the terrestrial carbon cycle on recent and future Arctic warming.