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Seasonal variations in the stable oxygen isotope ratio of wood cellulose reveal annual rings of trees in a Central Amazon terra firme forest

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In Amazonian non-flooded forests with a moderate dry season, many trees do not form anatomically definite annual rings. Alternative indicators of annual rings, such as the oxygen (δ18Owc) and carbon stable isotope ratios of wood cellulose (δ13Cwc), have been proposed; however, their applicability in Amazonian forests remains unclear. We examined seasonal variations in the δ18Owc and δ13Cwc of three common species (Eschweilera coriacea, Iryanthera coriacea, and Protium hebetatum) in Manaus, Brazil (Central Amazon). E. coriacea was also sampled in two other regions to determine the synchronicity of the isotopic signals among different regions. The annual cyclicity of δ18Owc variation was cross-checked by 14C dating. The δ18Owc showed distinct seasonal variations that matched the amplitude observed in the δ18O of precipitation, whereas seasonal δ13Cwc variations were less distinct in most cases. The δ18Owc variation patterns were similar within and between some individual trees in Manaus. However, the δ18Owc patterns of E. coriacea differed by region. The ages of some samples estimated from the δ18Owc cycles were offset from the ages estimated by 14C dating. In the case of E. coriacea, this phenomenon suggested that missing or wedging rings may occur frequently even in well-grown individuals. Successful cross-dating may be facilitated by establishing δ18Owc master chronologies at both seasonal and inter-annual scales for tree species with distinct annual rings in each region.

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We thank Mr. F. Q. Reis, Mr. F. R. de Araujo, and Dr. V. Carneiro for identification of the tree species. The field investigations and sample preparations were assisted by Mr. M. Sakurai, Dr. J. dos Santos, Dr. A. J. N. Lima, Mr. L. K. de Ourique, Mr. G. H. P. M. Ribeiro, Ms. E. Barboza, Dr. C. C. do Nascimento, and Ms. P. Baggio. Dr. R. Suwa and Dr. H. Noguchi gave us useful comments regarding the discussion and interpretation of the results. We are also grateful to Dr. H. ter Steege for giving us valuable advice on selecting species. Permission to collect samples was granted by the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and this study was financially supported by the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development program of the Japan Science and Technology Agency and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Author contribution statement

S. O., F. M. D., A. K., T. K., S. E. T., M. I., and N. H. designed the experiment. S. O. and F. M. D. conducted the fieldwork. S. O. and A. K. performed wood anatomical and stable isotope analyses, and S. E. T. and X. X. performed radiocarbon analysis. S. O., F. M. D., A. K., and T. K. wrote the manuscript; other authors provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Shinta Ohashi.

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Communicated by Russell Monson.

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Ohashi, S., Durgante, F.M., Kagawa, A. et al. Seasonal variations in the stable oxygen isotope ratio of wood cellulose reveal annual rings of trees in a Central Amazon terra firme forest. Oecologia 180, 685–696 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3509-x

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  • Tropical moist forest
  • Stable carbon isotope ratio
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Wood anatomy
  • Tree-ring detection