Influence of terrestrial vegetation on leaf wax δD of Holocene lake sediments

David M. Nelson, Anna K. Henderson, Yongsong Huang, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hydrogen isotope composition of terrestrial plant leaf wax in sediments is increasingly used as a paleoclimatic indicator. Modern calibration studies suggest that paleoclimatic interpretation of leaf wax δD values requires consideration of the differences in the apparent fractionation of hydrogen isotopes among different groups of plants. However, it is not common that paleoecological data are used to help interpret leaf wax δD profiles. Here we assess the relative importance of factors influencing millennial-scale shifts in δD values of n-alkanoic acids at Steel Lake (Minnesota, USA), an extensively studied site with independent records of vegetation composition, δD of input water to the lake, and evaporation. The δD values of the n-C28 alkanoic acid (δDC28) vary between -190 and -168‰, and do not correlate with δD of input water or the extent of evaporation. However, δDC28 is negatively correlated with the δ13C values of the n-C28 alkanoic acid (δ13CC28). The correlation, along with pollen assemblage and carbonate δ13C records, suggests that Holocene shifts between forest and grassland and/or in the water use efficiency of C3 plants influenced the stratigraphic variation in leaf wax δD. Thus, paleoecological information, such as that inferred from pollen assemblages and carbon isotopes of plant-derived compounds, may aid paleoclimatic interpretation of leaf wax δD profiles from lake sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-110
Number of pages5
JournalOrganic Geochemistry
StatePublished - Mar 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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