Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 307–319 | Cite as

Stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) of total organic carbon and long-chain n-alkanes as proxies for climate and environmental change in a sediment core from Lake Petén-Itzá, Guatemala

  • Jennifer L. Mays
  • Mark Brenner
  • Jason H. Curtis
  • Kathryn V. Curtis
  • David A. Hodell
  • Alex Correa-Metrio
  • Jaime Escobar
  • Andrea L. Dutton
  • Andrew R. Zimmerman
  • Thomas P. Guilderson
Original Paper

Abstract

Sediment core PI-6 from Lake Petén Itzá, Guatemala, possesses an ~85-ka record of climate and environmental change from lowland Central America. Variations in sediment lithology suggest large and abrupt changes in precipitation during the last glacial and deglacial periods, and into the early Holocene. We measured stable carbon isotope ratios of total organic carbon and long-chain n-alkanes from the core, the latter representing a largely allochthonous (terrestrial) source of organic matter, to reveal past shifts in the relative proportion of C3–C4 terrestrial biomass. We sought to test whether stable carbon isotope results were consistent with other paleoclimate proxies measured in the PI-6 core, and if extraction and isotope analysis of n-alkanes is warranted. The largest δ13C variations are associated with Heinrich Events. Carbon isotope values in sediments deposited during the last glacial maximum indicate moderate precipitation with little fluctuation. The deglacial was a period of pronounced climate variability, e.g. a relatively warm and moist Bølling–Allerød, but a cool and dry Younger Dryas. Arid periods of the deglacial were inferred from samples with high δ13C values in total organic carbon, which reflect times of greater proportions of C4 plants. These inferences are supported by stable isotope measurements on ostracod shells and relative abundance of grass pollen from the same depths in core PI-6. Similar trends in carbon stable isotopes measured on bulk organic carbon and n-alkanes suggest that carbon isotope measures on bulk organic carbon in sediments from this lake are sufficient to infer past climate-driven shifts in local vegetation.

Keywords

Compound-specific isotope analysis n-Alkanes Pleistocene paleoclimate Sediment geochemistry Tropical paleolimnology 

Supplementary material

10933_2017_9949_MOESM1_ESM.doc (227 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 227 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Mays
    • 1
    • 9
  • Mark Brenner
    • 2
  • Jason H. Curtis
    • 2
  • Kathryn V. Curtis
    • 3
  • David A. Hodell
    • 4
  • Alex Correa-Metrio
    • 5
  • Jaime Escobar
    • 2
    • 6
  • Andrea L. Dutton
    • 1
  • Andrew R. Zimmerman
    • 1
  • Thomas P. Guilderson
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological Sciences and Land Use, Environmental Change Institute (LUECI)University of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Soil and Water ScienceUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  5. 5.Instituto de GeologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México Ciudad UniversitariaMexicoMexico
  6. 6.Universidad del NorteBarranquillaColombia
  7. 7.Center for Accelerator Mass SpectrometryLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLivermoreUSA
  8. 8.Department of Ocean SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  9. 9.Geophysical Laboratory, Deep Carbon ObservatoryCarnegie Institution of WashingtonWashingtonUSA

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