Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists to unearth Ice Age secrets from preserved tree rings

Date:
April 6, 2010
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Scientists are working to unearth 30,000 year old climate records, before they are lost forever. The rings of preserved kauri trees, hidden in New Zealand's peat bogs, hold the secret to climate fluctuations spanning back to the end of the last Ice Age.

New Zealand's Kauri trees can measure up to four metres wide and live for up to 2,000 years.
Credit: Chris Turney; Image courtesy of University of Oxford

Oxford University is involved in a research project to unearth 30,000 year old climate records, before they are lost forever. The rings of preserved kauri trees, hidden in New Zealand's peat bogs, hold the secret to climate fluctuations spanning back to the end of the last Ice Age.

The team, led by Exeter University, has been awarded a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council to carry out carbon dating and other analyses of the kauri tree rings. The trees store an immense amount of information about rapid and extreme climate change in the past. For instance, wide ring widths are associated with cool dry summer conditions. The scientists believe their findings will help us understand what future climate change may bring.

Tree rings are now known to be an excellent resource for extracting very precise and detailed data on atmospheric carbon from a particular time period. Therefore this study could help plug a large gap in our knowledge of climate change by extending historical weather records that only date back to the mid-nineteenth century.

There is nowhere else in the world with such a rich resource of ancient wood that spans such a large period of time. The ancient kauri logs are of enormous dimensions, up to several metres across, and have the potential to provide new detailed information about rapid, extreme and abrupt climate changes at a time when there was significant human migration throughout the globe.

While various records exist for historic climate change, such as those derived from ice cores, there is no easy way of correlating these records. The research will focus on the last 30,000 years, but some trees date back 130,000 years. The period towards the end of the last Ice Age is particularly difficult to understand.

This unique archive of kauri trees is likely to be lost within the next ten years because the timber is so highly-prized for furniture, arts and crafts. Kauri (Agathis australis) are conifer trees buried in peat bogs across northern New Zealand. Trees can measure up to four metres wide and live for up to 2,000 years. As well as containing information on past climates, they could also shed light on environmental and archaeological change.

Samples from a network of sites with buried trees will be collected in New Zealand and taken back to the UK laboratories for preparation and analysis at Exeter and then radiocarbon measurement at Oxford.

Professor Christopher Ramsey, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: 'This gives us a unique opportunity to increase our knowledge of the earth's climate and human responses to it at the end of the last Ice Age. The radiocarbon measurements should give us important new data that will help us to understand interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans during this period when there was rapid and dynamic change. Equally exciting is the prospect it will give us of more precise dating of archaeological sites from this period -- illuminating the only window we have onto how humans responded to these major changes in the environment.'

Lead researcher Professor Chris Turney of the University of Exeter said: 'We are facing a race against the clock to gather the information locked inside these preserved trees. It is fantastic to have this funding so we are able to gather this information before it is lost forever. While it will be fascinating to find out more about the earth 30,000 years ago perhaps more importantly we will have a better appreciation of the challenges of future climate change.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Scientists to unearth Ice Age secrets from preserved tree rings." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100405103837.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2010, April 6). Scientists to unearth Ice Age secrets from preserved tree rings. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100405103837.htm
University of Oxford. "Scientists to unearth Ice Age secrets from preserved tree rings." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100405103837.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

Iconic 'Easy Rider' Chopper Bike to Go on Auction Block

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) The iconic Harley-Davidson motorbike ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 classic "Easy Rider" is to go under the hammer in California, and auctioneers predict it will make at least $1 million. Duration: 01:09 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) Egypt's antiquities minister denied Tuesday claims that the Djoser pyramid, the country's first, had been damaged during restoration work by a company accused of being unqualified to do such work. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) King Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and now researchers examining his skull think they know how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins