Oxygen isotopic composition of opaline phytoliths: Potential for terrestrial climatic reconstruction

Ruth Shahack-Gross, Aldo Shemesh, Dan Yakir, Steve Weiner

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29 Scopus citations


Opaline mineralized bodies are produced by many terrestrial plants and accumulate in certain soils and archaeological sites. Analyses of the oxygen isotopic compositions of these so-called phytoliths from stems and leaves of wheat plants grown in a greenhouse showed a linear relationship with stem and leaf water isotopic compositions and hence, indirectly, rain water isotopic composition. Analyses of wheat plants grown in fields showed that stem phytoliths isotopic composition directly reflects the seasonal air temperature change, whereas leaf phytoliths isotopic composition reflects both temperature and relative humidity. Temperature and the oxygen isotopic composition of stem phytoliths were related by an equation similar to that proposed for marine opal. Oxygen isotopic compositions of fossil phytoliths, and in particular those from stems, could be valuable for reconstructing past terrestrial climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3949-3953
Number of pages5
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1996
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments--We thank Gilat Experimental Farm, Minhor Farm of Hazera Co., and the Israel Meteorological Service for materials and information. The technical assistance of E. Negreano, Y. Bolakia-Cohen, and R. Silenikov, and the helpful advice of A. Miller-Rosen, are gratefully acknowledged. This study was supported by the Minerva Foundation, Munich, Germany.


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