Abstract

Measurements of the 14C concentration in a Douglas fir from Vancouver Island indicate a maximum variation of 44‰, during the past 1 100 years. The magnitude and trend of these variations are similar to those observed by de Vries (1958) in oak from Germany and by Willis et al. (1960) in sequoias from California, confirming earlier observations that atmospheric mixing of CO2 takes place rapidly on a large scale.14C measurements of successive annual growth rings from the piths of two firs (346 years and 1 142 years old) show no variations beyond those attributable to the statistical counting error of ± 6‰. Thus, cyclic variations in sunspot activity and (or) climate, if present during these intervals, did not affect the 14C concentration in the biosphere appreciably.A mechanism, based on a climate-sensitive carbon pumping rate of the biosphere coupled with the temperature-dependent oceanic CO2 content is postulated to explain, qualitatively, the observed short-term (150 years or less) and long-term (1 000 years or more) 14C variations in the land biosphere. Short-term fluctuations are directly proportional to temperature because variations in the carbon fixation rate lead to a pulsating CO2 content of the atmosphere. Long-term changes are inversely proportional to temperature because large quantities of carbon, normally stored in deeper regions of the ocean, are exchanged between biosphere and hydrosphere.

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