Solar ultraviolet-B (UV-B) irradiance that reaches the Earth’s surface acts as a biotic stressor and has the potential to modify ecological and environmental functioning. The challenges of reconstructing UV irradiance prior to the satellite era mean that there is uncertainty over long-term surface UV-B patterns, especially in relation to variations in solar activity over centennial and millennial timescales. Here, we reconstruct surface UV-B irradiance over the last 650 years using a novel UV-B proxy based on the chemical signature of pollen grains. We demonstrate a statistically significant positive relationship between the abundance of UV-B absorbing compounds in Pinus pollen and modelled solar UV-B irradiance. These results show that trends in surface UV-B follow the overall solar activity pattern over centennial timescales, and that variations in solar output are the dominant control on surface level UV-B flux, rather than solar modulated changes in ozone thickness. The Pinus biochemical response demonstrated here confirms the potential for solar activity driven surface UV-B variations to impact upon terrestrial biotas and environments over long timescales.
- solar activity
- ultraviolet-B irradiance