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Nitrogen isotope analyses of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), 45,000 BP to 9,000 BP: Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions

Stevens, RE; Jacobi, R; Street, M; Germonpré, M; Conard, NJ; Münzel, SC; Hedges, REM; (2008) Nitrogen isotope analyses of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), 45,000 BP to 9,000 BP: Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology , 262 (1-2) pp. 32-45. 10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.01.019.

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Abstract

Pleistocene faunal δ 15 N variations are thought to reflect changes in climatic and environmental conditions. Researchers are still unclear, however, which climatic/environmental parameter is the primary control on Pleistocene faunal δ 15 N values. Through extensive nitrogen isotope analysis of Late Pleistocene reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) collagen we investigated whether permafrost development during the Late Pleistocene coincided with changes in δ 15 N values. After 45 ka BP reindeer δ 15 N declined, with lowest δ 15 N values observed after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), between 15 and 11 ka BP. The decline in δ 15 N appears to be of a greater magnitude in more northern regions than in the South of France, a pattern similar to that previously observed for horse. On a global scale, ecosystem δ 15 N is controlled by the relative openness of the nitrogen cycle, which in turn is controlled by climate. Low soil and plant δ 15 N are observed in cold and/or wet regions and high δ 15 N are seen in hot and/or arid areas. The regional pattern in reindeer δ 15 N decline mimics the pattern of climatic deterioration in Europe culminating at the LGM, with climate cooling being more intense in northern Europe than in southern Europe. However, the lowest reindeer δ 15 N values are observed after temperatures started to rise. This may have been due to a lag in the response of the nitrogen cycle to increasing temperatures. Alternatively it may have been linked to the influence of permafrost degradation on soil and plant δ 15 N and thus faunal δ 15 N. The renewed climatic cooling during the Younger Dryas did not see a fall in reindeer δ 15 N. Limited data does, however, suggest a post Younger Dryas depletion in reindeer δ 15 N values. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Type: Article
Title: Nitrogen isotope analyses of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), 45,000 BP to 9,000 BP: Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions
DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.01.019
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology
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URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1463246
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