Kvartærgeologi & Paleoklima

Mobilizing the paleoclimate potential of leaf waxes to reconstruct European paleohydrology

Project description
Mobilizing the paleoclimate potential of leaf waxes to reconstruct European paleohydrology

Despite the devastating societal impacts of floods and droughts like crop failure, famine and geohazards, warming receives far more attention in the climate change debate than hydrological change. Although it is now clear that large parts of our planet will likely become either drier or more susceptible to extreme precipitation events as climate changes in the 21st century, the exact pattern of the hydrological response to climate changes remain difficult to predict; in part because the long term behavior of hydroclimate variability is poorly defined. Indeed, relevant analogues and long-term baseline data on past hydrological change are very valuable to help researchers and politicians understand this uncertain future.

This project will address this exciting research niche using an innovative new approach: the analysis of hydrogen isotopes (δD) from leaf waxes that have been preserved in sediment archives. As precipitation is the dominant source of hydrogen incorporated in leaf waxes, δD variability often indicates changes in the source or amount of rain or snow. Such variations can result from shifts in circulation patterns like storm tracks. Because of this ability to understand paleohydrological change, leaf wax δD analysis has been in high demand.

Over the past years, the supervisors of this project have brought this exciting new tool to UiB GEO. We now have fully functional laboratory where leaf wax δD can be extracted from sediments with a robot, and subsequently measured on a mass spectrometer. The successful applicant gets the opportunity to apply this new technology on a unique geological record: a lake sediment sequence from the Albanian Alps on the Balkan peninsula. As this area receives precipitation from different sources with distinct isotopic sources, it is well-suited to test the ability of δD to detect past hydrological change.

The working hypotheses (questions) for this project are I) Can we use leaf wax δD to track past changes in the source of moisture?, II) Do hydroclimate shifts coincide with in-lake traces of extreme events (geohazards) or regional climate events?, and III) What does this baseline study tell us about future (hydro)climate change?

When completed, this project provides a valuable environmental context for change in a poorly studied region. It will also provide important knowledge for achieving a sustainable future. Finally, collaboration with UK-based institutes provide the successful candidate with an opportunity to strengthen her/his credentials.

Proposed course plan during the master's degree:
GEOV222 / Paleoklimatologi (10)
GEOV302 / Anvendt dataanalyse i geovitskap (10)
GEOV322 / Masterekskursjon i kvartærgeologi (5)
GEOV326 / Kvartære miljø, prosessar og utviklinga (10)
GEOV342 / Den geokjemiske verktøykassen (10)
GEOV344 / Geobiologi og livets utvikling på jorden (10)
MNF344   / Årsaker til klimaforandringer (5)

For more information and details, please contact the day-to-day supervisor for this project, Willem van der Bilt:

Felt- lab- og analysearbeid
For this project, the successful candidate will work in both the department`s national research infrastructures:

EARTHLAB, the characterize the investigated lake sediments the processes that formed them.

FARLAB, to extract lipid biomarkers from the sediments and measure hydrogen isotopes on them.

In addition, high-resolution drone and bathymetry data were collected during coring (GEOV322 in 2019). The
candidate has the opportunity to process and use these.