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Understanding 2H/1H systematics of leaf wax n-alkanes in coastal plants at Stiffkey saltmarsh, Norfolk, UK

Eley, Y., Dawson, L., Black, S. ORCID:, Andrews, J. and Pedentchouk, N. (2014) Understanding 2H/1H systematics of leaf wax n-alkanes in coastal plants at Stiffkey saltmarsh, Norfolk, UK. Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, 128. pp. 13-28. ISSN 0016-7037

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2013.11.045


Interpretation of sedimentary n-alkyl lipid d2H data is complicated by a limited understanding of factors controlling interspecies variation in biomarker 2H/1H composition. To distinguish between the effects of interrelated environmental, physical and biochemical controls on the hydrogen isotope composition of n-alkyl lipids, we conducted linked d2H analyses of soil water, xylem water, leaf water and n-alkanes from a range of C3 and C4 plants growing at a UK saltmarsh (i) across multiple sampling sites, (ii) throughout the 2012 growing season, and (iii) at different times of the day. Soil waters varied isotopically by up to 35& depending on marsh sub-environment, and exhibited site-specific seasonal shifts in d2H up to a maximum of 31 per mil. Maximum interspecies variation in xylem water was 38 per mil, while leaf waters differed seasonally by a maximum of 29 per mil. Leaf wax n-alkane 2H/1H, however, consistently varied by over 100 per mil throughout the 2012 growing season, resulting in an interspecies range in the ewax/leaf water values of -79 per mil to –227 per mil. From the discrepancy in the magnitude of these isotopic differences, we conclude that mechanisms driving variation in the 2H/1H composition of leaf water, including (i) spatial changes in soil water 2H/1H, (ii) temporal changes in soil water 2H/1H, (iii) differences in xylem water 2H/1H, and (iv) differences in leaf water evaporative 2H-enrichment due to varied plant life forms, cannot explain the range of n-alkane d2H values we observed. Results from this study suggests that accurate reconstructions of palaeoclimate regimes from sedimentary n-alkane d2H require further research to constrain those biological mechanisms influencing species-specific differences in 2H/1H fractionation during lipid biosynthesis, in particular where plants have developed biochemical adaptations to water-stressed conditions. Understanding how these mechanisms interact with environmental conditions will be crucial to ensure accurate interpretation of hydrogen isotope signals from the geological record.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:44874


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