Bat guano: A possible new source for paleoclimate reconstructions

Nitrogen isotopes within samples of bat excrement accurately reflect modern precipitation patterns. So could guano serve as a paleoclimate record?

Over the ages, armies have fought wars over guano, a stinky, cockroach-infested treasure that’s rich in nitrogen and phosphate. Although still valued for its fertilization qualities, this natural resource—once used to make gunpowder—may offer a new application as a window into climate change.

Scientists investigate past climates by studying substances that accumulate slowly over time. Trees, stalactites and stalagmites, peat, ice, lake sediments, ocean sediments, and corals all grow or accumulate in ways that reflect the environment surrounding them. Specifically, the isotopes within their structures fingerprint the conditions prevalent at the time of formation, be they wet, dry, cold, or warm. But paleoclimate records aren’t limited to tree rings and the like. Read more.

Tags: Biology Nitrogen carbon-12 nitrogen-14