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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.
We analyzed variations in the Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, REE/Ca (REE: rare earth element), Zn/Ca, and Pb/Ca ratios preserved in an annually layered stalagmite, XL21, from central China. The stalagmite record spans the 95 year period AD 1914–2008. The Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios have a significant positive correlation with the stalagmite's growth rate, suggesting that they were primarily controlled by growth-rate variations. Variations in REE/Ca ratios are consistent with local temperature changes, suggesting temperature influenced REE concentrations in the stalagmite over decadal to annual timescales. Higher temperature in this humid area can increase vegetation cover, microbial activity, and organic decomposition in the soil, resulting in enhanced pCO2, organic matter concentration and reduced pH, and consequently increased REE mobilization from the overlying soil layer and host rock. Higher temperatures may also increase the natural Zn mobilization from the overlying soil mediated by organic matter and consequently may have led to increased Zn retention in XL21. An increasing trend is seen in the Pb/Ca ratios from XL21 since 1985, which is consistent with increased lead production in this area, and indicates an increase in mine-derived lead pollution in the local environment over the past 30 years.
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