William Edward Wright
Ph.D 2001

Contact Information:
Dr. William Edward Wright
Lab. of Tree-Ring Research
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85745

E-mail: wew@email.arizona.edu
Web: https://ltrr.arizona.edu/node/4591

Dissertation Title: dD and d18O in Mixed Conifer Systems in the U.S. Southwest: The Potential of d18O in Pinus ponderosa Tree Rings as a Natural Environmental Recorder (see Abstract below)

dD and d18O in Mixed Conifer Systems in the U.S. Southwest: The Potential of d18O in Pinus ponderosa
Tree Rings as a Natural Environmental Recorder

Department of Geosciences
The University of Arizona


The North American Monsoon provides half of the annual precipitation in Tucson, Arizona. The other half occurs dominantly during the winter and early spring. Late spring is the transitional period to the monsoon and is characterized by high temperatures and low humidity. The reliability of this hyperarid period, the consistency of the timing of monsoon onset, and the recognition that certain high-elevation trees produce annual false latewood bands in response to this transitional period, were critical to the design of this dissertation research. I hypothesized that subannual environmental signals might be fixed in stable oxygen isotopes in cellulose from such trees.

Existence of a long-term dataset of D and 18O from Tucson precipitation provided impetus for the collection of a companion dataset at a high-elevation site in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Trees were sampled near the precipitation collection site. The relations between the stable isotope ratios in the precipitation and in the tree cellulose were identified through extraction of water from bimonthly samples of nearby soil, tree stems and needles. Spatial consistency of the cellulose stable isotope signals was measured using tree samples from seven additional sites across the U.S. desert Southwest.

Correlations between Tucson summer precipitation 18O and both local and extra-regional environmental parameters resulted in the identification of the dominant monsoonal moisture source for the Tucson area. Similar correlations with the cellulose 18O timeseries from the post-false latewood cellulose, supported the previous interpretations, and suggest long-term reconstructions may be possible. Correlations between the earliest cellulose 18O division and extra-regional environmental parameters suggest environmental measures may be reconstructable for the cool season. Comparison of the high and low elevation precipitation D and 18O datasets yielded many baseline measures of precipitation stable-isotope dynamics in the U.S. desert Southwest. Comparison of the high-elevation precipitation stable isotope record with soil and stem water D and 18O from nearby confirmed that local trees were using dominantly deeper soil water. I noted correlations between measured needle-water stable isotope values and values calculated using a leaf-water model, but systematic departures suggest an additional unmodeled process may operate in this system.