Understanding the effects of early degradation on isotopic tracers: implications for sediment source attribution using compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA)

Hirave, Pranav and Wiesenberg, Guido L. B. and Birkholz, Axel and Alewell, Christine. (2020) Understanding the effects of early degradation on isotopic tracers: implications for sediment source attribution using compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA). Biogeosciences, 17 (8). pp. 2169-2180.

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Application of compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) in sediment fingerprinting source apportionment studies is becoming more frequent, as it can potentially provide robust land-use-based source attribution of suspended sediments in freshwater and marine systems. Isotopic tracers such as δ 13 C values of vegetation-derived organic compounds are considered to be suitable for the CSIA-based fingerprinting method. However, a rigorous evaluation of tracer conservativeness in terms of the stability of isotopic signature during detachment and transport of soil during erosion is essential for the suitability of the method. With the aim to identify potential fractionation and shifts in tracer signature during early degradation of organic matter in surface soils, we measured concentrations and δ 13 C values of long-chain fatty acids and n -alkanes from fresh plant biomass (as vegetation is a direct source of these compounds to the soils), degraded organic horizon (O horizon), and mineral soil (A horizon) from various forest types with different humus forms (five sites). The bulk δ 13 C values showed continuous 13 C enrichment through the degradation stages from fresh plant material to the O and A horizons, ranging between 3.5 � and 5.6 �. Compound-specific δ 13 C values showed a general 13 C enrichment for both long-chain fatty acids (up to 5 �) and n -alkanes (up to 3.9 �) from fresh plant biomass to the O horizon overlying the A horizon. However, only slight or no further changes occurred from the O to the A horizon. We also compared compound-specific δ 13 C values between two soil particle size classes ( <2 mm and <63 µ m) from four sites and found no significant differences of tracer values between them, with even less fractionation for the long-chain n -alkanes within the soil particle fractions. This points to the conclusion that sampling and analysing bulk soil material might be valid for the isotopic tracer applications. We further conclude that our results support the suitability of studied isotopic tracers as a representative source soil signature in the CSIA-based sediment source attribution, as they demonstrated necessary stability in the plant-soil system during organic matter degradation.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Umweltgeowissenschaften (Alewell)
UniBasel Contributors:Alewell, Christine and Birkholz, Axel and Hirave, Pranav
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Copernicus Gesellschaft MBH
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:04 Aug 2020 15:42
Deposited On:04 Aug 2020 15:41

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