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Late Pleistocene C 4 plant Dominance and Summer Rainfall in the Southwestern United States from Isotopic Study of Herbivore Teeth Connin S.L., Betancourt,

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Presentation on theme: "Late Pleistocene C 4 plant Dominance and Summer Rainfall in the Southwestern United States from Isotopic Study of Herbivore Teeth Connin S.L., Betancourt,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Late Pleistocene C 4 plant Dominance and Summer Rainfall in the Southwestern United States from Isotopic Study of Herbivore Teeth Connin S.L., Betancourt, J., Quade, J., 1998, Quaternary Research v.50, p , article # QR981986

2 Difference between C 3 and C 4 plants Temperate Environment Arid Environment

3 Plant types are an environmental indicator C 4 plants: desert grasses, some herbs and shrubs –dominate region after 18,000 BP C 3 plants: dicotelydenous plants and temperate grasses dominate the region during the late Pleistocene

4 Current distribution of C 4 plants

5 Carbon Isotopes in Plants Different plants incorporate different types of carbon in their structure Megaherbivores eat the plants, and incorporate the carbon in their structure

6 C and O Isotopes in tooth Enamel C 13 values in tooth enamel correlate to bulk diet C 13 values differ for C 4 and C 3 plants C 4 ( 12%,) C 3 ( -26%) O 18 in enamel relates to drinking water and plant water

7 Location Map

8 Megaherbivores Musk Ox and Bison

9 Megaherbivores Equus

10 Woolly Mammoth Megaherbivores

11 Giant Ground Sloth Megaherbivores

12 Assumptions 1) Physiology of modern and glacial C3 and C4 grasses is similar 2) C4 diets largely reflect the consumption of grasses 3) Enamel C13 values provide an accurate record of C4 plants on local landscape

13 Validity of assumptions 1) Difficult to test but likely sound 2) Supported by spatial variations of grasses but is best seen in Mammuthus spp. and Bison spp. 3) Overlooks possibility of migratory behavior

14 Abundance of C 4 and C 3 grasses and shrubs Isolines indicate annual proportion of rainfall in summer months Mostly C 4 Mostly C 3

15 Comparison of past and present conditions

16 Climatic Implications Proximity of glaciers caused a shift in the jet stream This shift changed rainfall patterns, favoring the growth of more C 4 plants Most of the rainfall in summer A tropical or sub-tropical source of Summer precipitation

17 Climatic Comparison: Pleistocene vs. Present

18 Comparison of Isotope studies

19 Conclusions C 13 values increased with decreasing latitude More work needed, as this is the first study of this kind A weak sub-tropical high produced low cutoff pressure cells that steered rain patterns over the Southwest Tropical or sub tropical rainfall patterns in the Southwest during the Pleistocene


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