Publication Details

Bramley-Alves, J., Wanek, W. & Robinson, S. A. (2016). Moss δ13C: implications for subantarctic palaeohydrological reconstructions. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 453 20-29.


Southern Ocean Islands, despite their equitable oceanic climates, have recently experienced a number of pronounced climate variations. Shifts in water availability in this region are of concern; however, methods of measuring water availability are currently inadequate. Recent advances using stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) in Antarctic mosses to record long-term variations in water availability suggest that this technique might be applicable in other locations where conditions are cold enough to produce meaningful moss growth for reconstructions. Verification of this technique at each new location is essential, however, due to disparity between species and climates. Here, variations in δ13CBULK with growth water availability were measured in three moss species on subantarctic Macquarie Island. We found these subantarctic mosses showed no difference in δ13CBULK signatures between growth water environments and displayed more negative δ13CBULK ranges than those from East Antarctica, suggesting that climatic differences override the microclimate signal. Despite significant differences in leaf cell morphology there was no variation in δ13CBULK between these subantarctic species. It may be that these species are unsuitable as biological proxies due to their growth form being less dense than the turf forming Antarctic species. This underlines the need to carryout preliminary research into moss carbon isotope fractionation for each new region, and for each species, where palaeohydrological reconstructions are planned – a step that is often not given appropriate consideration in palaeo-research.

Grant Number