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Garcin, Yannick; Schefuß, Enno; Schwab, Valérie F; Garreta, Vincent; Gleixner, Gerd; Vincens, Annie; Todou, Gilbert; Séné, Olivier; Onana, Jean-Michel; Achoundong, Gaston; Sachse, Dirk (2014): n-alkane carbon isotope ratios in plants and recent lake sediments from Cameroon. PANGAEA,, Supplement to: Garcin, Y et al. (2014): Reconstructing C3 and C4 vegetation cover using n-alkane carbon isotope ratios in recent lake sediments from Cameroon, Western Central Africa. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 142, 482-500,

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Trees and shrubs in tropical Africa use the C3 cycle as a carbon fixation pathway during photosynthesis, while grasses and sedges mostly use the C4 cycle. Leaf-wax lipids from sedimentary archives such as the long-chain n-alkanes (e.g., n-C27 to n-C33) inherit carbon isotope ratios that are representative of the carbon fixation pathway. Therefore, n-alkane d13C values are often used to reconstruct past C3/C4 composition of vegetation, assuming that the relative proportions of C3 and C4 leaf waxes reflect the relative proportions of C3 and C4 plants. We have compared the d13C values of n-alkanes from modern C3 and C4 plants with previously published values from recent lake sediments and provide a framework for estimating the fractional contribution (areal-based) of C3 vegetation cover (fC3) represented by these sedimentary archives. Samples were collected in Cameroon, across a latitudinal transect that accommodates a wide range of climate zones and vegetation types, as reflected in the progressive northward replacement of C3-dominated rain forest by C4-dominated savanna. The C3 plants analysed were characterised by substantially higher abundances of n-C29 alkanes and by substantially lower abundances of n-C33 alkanes than the C4 plants. Furthermore, the sedimentary d13C values of n-C29 and n-C31 alkanes from recent lake sediments in Cameroon (-37.4 per mil to -26.5 per mil) were generally within the range of d13C values for C3 plants, even when from sites where C4 plants dominated the catchment vegetation. In such cases simple linear mixing models fail to accurately reconstruct the relative proportions of C3 and C4 vegetation cover when using the d13C values of sedimentary n-alkanes, overestimating the proportion of C3 vegetation, likely as a consequence of the differences in plant wax production, preservation, transport, and/or deposition between C3 and C4 plants. We therefore tested a set of non-linear binary mixing models using d13C values from both C3 and C4 vegetation as end-members. The non-linear models included a sigmoid function (sine-squared) that describes small variations in the fC3 values as the minimum and maximum d13C values are approached, and a hyperbolic function that takes into account the differences between C3 and C4 plants discussed above. Model fitting and the estimation of uncertainties were completed using the Monte Carlo algorithm and can be improved by future data addition. Models that provided the best fit with the observed d13C values of sedimentary n-alkanes were either hyperbolic functions or a combination of hyperbolic and sine-squared functions. Such non-linear models may be used to convert d13C measurements on sedimentary n-alkanes directly into reconstructions of C3 vegetation cover.
Median Latitude: 7.343105 * Median Longitude: 11.825076 * South-bound Latitude: 3.768600 * West-bound Longitude: 8.980500 * North-bound Latitude: 11.054700 * East-bound Longitude: 14.145700
This research was supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG) through GA-1629/1-1&2 .
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