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Absence of Saharan dust influence on the strontium isotope ratios on modern trees from the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2018

Rick Schulting*
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 1-2 South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3TG, United Kingdom
Mike Richards
Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, V5A 1S6
John Pouncett
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 1-2 South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3TG, United Kingdom
Bryan Naqqi Manco
Department of Environment and Coastal Resources, National Environmental Centre, Lower Bight Road, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
Ethan Freid
Bahamas National Trust/Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, P.O. Box N-4105, Nassau, The Bahamas
Joanna Ostapkowicz
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 1-2 South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3TG, United Kingdom
*Corresponding author at: School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, 1-2 South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3TG, United Kingdom. E-mail address: (R. Schulting).


We report on strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotope results from 91 modern trees growing on the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. The average 87Sr/86Sr ratio of 0.709169±0.000010 is consistent with the late Quaternary limestone of the islands and with the modern ocean value. The absence of any detectable influence of 87Sr-enriched Saharan dust is notable, given the known contribution of this material to both past and recent soils of the Caribbean. Our results indicate that the impact of Saharan dust to the modern biosphere of the Bahamian archipelago is at least an order of magnitude less than modeled in currently available strontium isoscapes for the circum-Caribbean. We suggest that the bioavailability of Sr in Saharan dust may be considerably less than previously thought. Nevertheless, further work could usefully be carried out in the Bahamian archipelago on plants with different rooting depths, growing on different soil types and on limestone of different ages. Our results have particular relevance for the refinement of existing strontium isoscapes and the archaeological provenience of artifacts, animals, and people in the circum-Caribbean.

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Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2018 

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