Collins, JA et al. (2013): Hydrogen isotopic composition of sediment cores from a transect off western Africa. doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.811498, Supplement to:Collins, James A; Schefuß, Enno; Mulitza, Stefan; Prange, Matthias; Werner, Martin; Tharammal, Thejna; Paul, André; Wefer, Gerold (2013): Estimating the hydrogen isotopic composition of past precipitation using leaf-waxes from western Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews, 65, 88-101, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.01.007
The hydrogen isotopic composition of plant leaf-wax n-alkanes (dDwax) is a novel proxy for estimating dD of past precipitation (dDp). However, vegetation life-form and relative humidity exert secondary effects on dDwax, preventing quantitative estimates of past dDp. Here, we present an approach for removing the effect of vegetation-type and relative humidity from dDwax and thus for directly estimating past dDp. We test this approach on modern day (late Holocene; 0-3 ka) sediments from a transect of 9 marine cores spanning 21°N-23°S off the western coast of Africa. We estimate vegetation type (C3 tree versus C4 grass) using d13C of leaf-wax n-alkanes and correct dDwax for vegetation-type with previously-derived apparent fractionation factors for each vegetation type. Late Holocene vegetation-corrected dDwax (dDvc) displays a good fit with modern-day dDp, suggesting that the effects of vegetation type and relative humidity have both been removed and thus that dDvc is a good estimate of dDp. We find that the magnitude of the effect of C3 tree - C4 grass changes on dDwax is small compared to dDp changes. We go on to estimate dDvc for the mid-Holocene (6-8 ka), the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 19-23 ka) and Heinrich Stadial 1 (HS1; 16-18.5 ka). In terms of past hydrological changes, our leaf-wax based estimates of dDp mostly reflect changes in wet season intensity, which is complementary to estimates of wet season length based on leaf-wax d13C.