Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 64, Issue 5, pp 1475–1486 | Cite as

The application of δ13C and C/N ratios as indicators of organic carbon sources and paleoenvironmental change of the mangrove ecosystem from Ba Lat Estuary, Red River, Vietnam

  • Nguyen Tai TueEmail author
  • Hideki Hamaoka
  • Atsushi Sogabe
  • Tran Dang Quy
  • Mai Trong Nhuan
  • Koji Omori
Original Article


In this study, two sediment cores (~70 cm) were collected from separate mangrove forests straddling the Ba Lat Estuary, Red River of northern Vietnam, to examine the origins of sedimentary organic carbon (SOC) and reconstruct the paleoenvironment. In addition, mangrove leaves and particulate organic matter were collected and measured for δ13C to trace the origins of SOC. The cores were analyzed by high-resolution sections for δ13C, TOC, C/N ratios, sediment grain size, water content, and porosity, with values of δ13C, TOC, and C/N ratios ranging from −28.19 to −22.5‰, 2.14–30.94 mg/g, and 10.29–18.32, respectively. The δ13C and TOC relationship indicated that there were some small residual effects of diagenetic processes on TOC and δ13C values in mangrove sediments. However, the shifts of δ13C and C/N ratios from the bottom to the surface sediment of the cores explained the change in organic matter sources, with values of C/N > 12 and δ13C < −25‰, and C/N < 12 and δ13C > −25‰ indicated terrestrial (e.g., mangrove litter) and marine phytoplankton sources, respectively. The covarying δ13C, C/N ratios, and sediment grain sizes during the past 100 years in sediment cores showed that the paleoenvironment may be reconstructed into three environments (subtidal, tidal flat, and intertidal mangrove). General trends in δ13C and C/N followed a gradual increase in the C/N ratio and a concomitant decrease in δ13C from the subtidal, through to tidal flat, and to the intertidal mangrove. δ13C and C/N ratios are therefore effective in measuring the continuum of environmental change in mangrove ecosystem.


C/N ratio Mangrove ecosystem Organic carbon sources Paleoenvironment Ba Lat Estuary 



The authors are grateful to staff of Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam, for their help with sampling and to Dr. Atsuko Amano for help with sediment grain size analysis. They express their sincere thanks to Dr. Todd W. Miller for critical review of the manuscript. This work was supported by the “Global COE Program” from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nguyen Tai Tue
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hideki Hamaoka
    • 2
  • Atsushi Sogabe
    • 2
  • Tran Dang Quy
    • 3
  • Mai Trong Nhuan
    • 3
  • Koji Omori
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School of Science and EngineeringEhime UniversityMatsuyamaJapan
  2. 2.Center for Marine Environmental StudiesEhime UniversityMatsuyamaJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of GeologyHanoi University of ScienceHanoiVietnam

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