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Comparative 14C and OSL dating of loess-paleosol sequences to evaluate post-depositional contamination of n-alkane biomarkers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2017

Michael Zech*
Affiliation:
Institute of Agronomy and Nutritional Sciences, Soil Biogeochemistry, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Von-Seckendorff-Platz 3, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany Department of Geomorphology and Department of Soil Physics, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstr. 30, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany
Sebastian Kreutzer
Affiliation:
Department of Geomorphology and Department of Soil Physics, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstr. 30, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany Department of Geography, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Senckenbergstr. 1, 35390 Giessen, Germany
Roland Zech
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Biogeoscience Group, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstr. 5, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Tomasz Goslar
Affiliation:
Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory, ul. Rubiez 46, 61-612 Poznan, Poland
Sascha Meszner
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Chair of Physical Geography, Dresden University of Technology, Helmholtzstr. 10, 01069 Dresden, Germany
Cameron McIntyre
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Biogeoscience Group, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstr. 5, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Christoph Häggi
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Biogeoscience Group, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstr. 5, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Timothy Eglinton
Affiliation:
Geological Institute, Biogeoscience Group, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstr. 5, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Dominik Faust
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Chair of Physical Geography, Dresden University of Technology, Helmholtzstr. 10, 01069 Dresden, Germany
Markus Fuchs
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Senckenbergstr. 1, 35390 Giessen, Germany
*
*Corresponding author at: Institute of Agronomy and Nutritional Sciences, Soil Biogeochemistry, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Von-Seckendorff-Platz 3, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany. E-mail address: michael_zech@gmx.de (M. Zech).

Abstract

There is an ongoing controversial discussion as to whether n-alkane lipid biomarkers—and organic matter of loess in general—reflect a synsedimentary paleoenvironmental/climate signal or whether they are significantly affected by postdepositional “contamination,” for example related to root and rhizomicrobial activity. In order to address this issue at our study site (the Middle to Late Weichselian loess-paleosol sequence Gleina in Saxony, Germany), we determined and compared radiocarbon ages of bulk n-alkanes and sedimentation ages, as assessed by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. The bulk n-alkanes of the four dated samples yielded calibrated 14C ages ranging from 24.1 to 49.7 cal ka BP (95.4% probability ranges). While the three uppermost n-alkane samples are well within the range or even slightly older than the OSL-inferred sedimentation ages, the lowermost n-alkane sample is slightly younger than the OSL ages. There is hence little or no evidence at our study site for n-alkanes in loess-paleosol sequences being significantly “contaminated” by deep subsoil rooting or microbial processes. We propose a 14C isotope mass balance calculation for estimating such contaminations quantitatively. Radiocarbon dating of bulk n-alkanes might have great potential for Quaternary research, and we encourage further comparative 14C and OSL studies.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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Footnotes

1 Present address: Department of Geography, Chair of Landscape- and Geoecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Dresden University of Technology, Helmholtzstr. 10, 01062 Dresden, Germany.
2 Present address: IRAMAT-CRP2A, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, Maison de l’Archéologie, Esplanade des Antilles, 33607 Pessac Cedex, France.
3 Present address: Institute of Geography and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, Biogeochemistry and Paleoclimatology Group, University of Bern, Hallerstr. 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.
4 Present address: Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), Rankine Avenue, Scottish Enterprise Technology Park, East Kilbride, G750QF, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
5 Present address: MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Leobener Str., 28359 Bremen, Germany.

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Comparative 14C and OSL dating of loess-paleosol sequences to evaluate post-depositional contamination of n-alkane biomarkers
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