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Lipid distribution in a subtropical southern China stalagmite as a record of soil ecosystem response to paleoclimate change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Shucheng Xie*
China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, People’s Republic of China Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an, People’s Republic of China
Yi Yi
China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, People’s Republic of China
Junhua Huang
China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, People’s Republic of China
Chaoyong Hu
China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, People’s Republic of China
Yanjun Cai
Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an, People’s Republic of China
Matthew Collins
NRG, Drummond Building, Devonshire Terrace, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
Andy Baker
Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research (CLUWRR), University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
*Corresponding author. E-mail (S. Xie).


Lipid extracts from a 61.7-cm-long subtropical stalagmite in southern China, spanning the period of ca. 10,000–21,000 yr ago as constrained by U–Th dating, were analyzed using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The higher plants and microorganisms in the overlying soils contribute a proportion of n-alkanes identified in the stalagmite. The occurrence of LMW (lower molecular weight) n-alkanols and n-alkan-2-ones in the stalagmite was mainly related to the soil microorganisms. We suggest that HMW (higher molecular weight) n-alkanols and n-alkan-2-ones identified in the stalagmite originate from soil organics and reflect input from contemporary vegetation. Shifts in the ratio of LMW to HMW n-alkanols or n-alkan-2-ones indicative of the variation of soil ecosystems (e.g., microbial degradation of organic matter and/or the relative abundance of soil microorganisms to higher plants) are comparable with the subtropical alkenone-SST (sea surface temperature) record of the same period. The similar trends seen in the δ13C data and the lipid parameters in this stalagmite imply that the overlying soil ecosystem response to climate might be responsible for the variation of δ13C values.

Research Article
University of Washington

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Lipid distribution in a subtropical southern China stalagmite as a record of soil ecosystem response to paleoclimate change
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